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Sailstad Case Update: 100 Years Ago in Insurance

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Here is an article that appeared in the Dec. 29, 1921, issue of The National Underwriter Life Insurance Edition.

Interest has again been aroused in underwriting circles in the case of E.J. Sailstad, president of the Multitone Manufacturing Co., Eau Claire, Wis., who was supposed to have burned to death at Lake Nebagamon, Wis., in August 1920, by the filing of an application for a marriage license by Mrs. Laona Sailstad and Ross T. Richardson, a salesman. Mrs. Sailstad stated that she is a widow. Sailstad was insured for $77,000 and The Travelers’ in which he carried the bulk of the insurance, has resisted payment of the death claim and maintains that it has proof that Sailstad is still alive.

Sailstad also carried an amount of corporation insurance said to have totaled $150,000. The corporation, now defunct, planned a suit against the Travelers and other companies to collect, but on presentation of evidence to attorneys at the Travelers’ offices, it was decided not to sue.

Although Mrs. Sailstad insisted all along that Sailstad is dead, she has recently taken no steps to collect under the personal policies.

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Sailstad is said to have had an affair with a young woman and, according to insurance companies, is supposed to have used the lake cottage fire as a “blind” to cover his tracks.

What Happened Later: The Leader-Telegram of Eau Claire, Wis., reported Dec. 6, 1923, that special investigators for Travelers and New York Life, which had always refused to pay death benefits, had found Sailstad in a tourist camp in Napa, California, with his former secretary, Dorothy Anderson. The paper reported that three other life insurers had made about $10,000 in settlement payments to Laona Sailstad and were unlikely to get their money back. E.J. Sailstad married Anderson in June 1925, after Sailstad was released from a reform school in Green Bay, Wis., and after Anderson was released from an industrial home for women in Taycheedah, Wis. Census records indicated that their marriage ended before 1940. Edward Sailstad died in Litchfield, Minn., in 1973, according to an obituary. At press time, no further information about Anderson’s fate could be found.

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E.J. Sailstad (Image: the April 10, 1925, issue of the Eau Claire, Wis., Leader-Telegram)