Thursday, August 26, 2010

R161 Usage Census Update - Accident Policy Application

Masons Fraternal Accident Association Policy
Westfield, Mass. August 2, 1898

2-cent I. R. provisional overprint and 1/2-cent orange documentary
tied by a blue oval cancel, illegible except for the date.

I've chosen not to unfold this document from how I exhibit it traditionally as it is fragile and has some repairs on the reverse. It's also a bit too large for my scanner, so while the corporate seal appears to be cut off at the bottom, there is an additional inch of space remaining below it and the stamps that is not shown.

It's an accident policy for John B. Shaw, age 43, a merchant of dry goods and furnishings from Sherman, Texas. The premium for this $5,000 death benefit accident policy was $3 per quarter with a one-time $5 application fee. The two and on-half cents affixed to the policy certificate paid the tax on the initial $5 application fee.

Fraternal organizations like the Masons performed a great service in the latter half of the 1800s by offering insurance plans that otherwise were a luxury beyond the means of most people. There were hundreds of such companies by 1900 and while few exist today many provided a needed service well into the 20th Century. My paternal grandfather, who emigrated from Hungary in 1905, and was a coal miner, had a policy with one of the small fraternal groups which today has evolved into the William Penn Association.

The Masons Fraternal Accident Association appears not to have been as successful. Founded August 15, 1887 in Westfield, Massachusetts, it fell into receivership in 1905 via a suit filed by the Attorney General of Massachusetts.

The R161 on-document usage census stands at seven. If you have information about additional on document usages, please email us, with scans if possible, at

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