L. S A M U E L .
Equitable Life Assurance Society,
June 30, 1899
David Thompson scans and highlight
Mr. Henry Hyde
New York-based President of the Equitable Life Assurance Society in 1898, his last year as President
Equitable was started in Manhattan in 1859 when Henry Baldwin Hyde, an ambitious young cashier for the giant Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York, left that firm to found his own. Life insurance ran in Hyde's family; his father was one of Mutual's top salesmen and would sell many policies for Equitable. Hyde organized his new firm as a joint-stock company, enlisting his friends to help sell shares. William Alexander, a lawyer and minor politician whom Hyde knew through their mutual association with the First Presbyterian Church of New York, was chosen as the firm's first president, with Hyde running its day-to-day affairs through the office of vice-president.
Equitable got off to a good start, selling 769 policies worth a total of more than $2.6 million in its first year. Business boomed during the Civil War, as the ravages of armed conflict impressed upon many the wisdom of insuring their lives. In 1865, the last year of the war, the firm had $27.6 million worth of coverage in force. Equitable had begun selling policies overseas almost immediately after its founding. It had an agent in Southeast Asia as early as 1860, and over the next two decades it established its presence elsewhere in the Far East, in Europe, the Middle East, South America, and Canada.
William Alexander died in 1874 and was succeeded by Henry Baldwin Hyde. Business continued to skyrocket during Hyde's active stewardship, and in 1886 Equitable surpassed Mutual to become the largest life insurance company in the world. That year, it sold $111.5 million worth of policies, giving it a total of $411.8 million of coverage in force. During those boom year, the firm could boast of having among its directors Ulysses S. Grant and financier John Jacob Astor.
Henry Hyde retired in 1898 and died the next year.