Americans will spend Monday honoring the memory of members of the armed services who have died in the service of their country.
The country will also honor the memory of civilian first respondents who have died, and of health care workers, grocery store employees, warehouse employees and other essential workers who have contracted severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and died of COVID-19, while trying to keep the country moving.
A little more than 100 years ago, Prudential Life Insurance Company observed Memorial Day by unveiling an 8-foot-tall war service memorial in its home office, in Newark, New Jersey.
- A copy of The Weekly Underwriter article about the Prudential memorial unveiling is available here.
- An article about a life insurance industry fund that will support survivors of workers who die fighting COVID-19 is available here.
Prudential — the forerunner of today’s Prudential Financial Inc. — hired Albert Randolph Ross to design the memorial, and Anton Schaaf and the Gorham Company to make the memorial.
The memorial featured an image of Columbia, the personification of America, wearing a battle helmet on her head, holding a sword in her right hand, and holding a wreath in her left hand, according to the memorial’s Library of Congress copyright catalog entry.
Prudential commissioned the memorial to honor the 1,729 company employees who had fought in what was then called “the World War.”
The memorial makers engraved the names of the 50 Prudential employees who died in the war alongside the image of the goddess.
In 1920, Memorial Day took place on May 30, on a Sunday. Prudential held its memorial unveiling ceremony two days before, on May 28.
The Weekly Underwriter, an insurance trade journal of the time, published an article about the ceremony and extracts from a letter Forrest Dryden, Prudential’s president, put the pamphlet issued in connection with the ceremony.