First American life insurance company incorporated, Philadelphia

Even the New York Times noted the celebration of Philadelphia’s oldest corporation, writing an article to commemorate the company’s “one hundred and forty-third year in existence.” The article was written in 1902, making the Corporation for Relief of Poor and Distressed Widows and Children of Presbyterian Ministers date back to the early colonial times.

On this day, January 11, in 1759, the Presbyterian Synods of New York and Philadelphia founded the life insurance company with the rather unwieldy name, shortened later to “Presbyterian Ministers Fund for Life Insurance,” to help Presbyterian women whose husbands died. It was the first life insurance outfit, but not the first insurance one – Benjamin Franklin established his Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire some seven years earlier.

The Presbyterian Ministers Fund survives to this day, in a sense (as does Franklin’s Philadelphia Contributionship). It was acquired by the Provident Mutual Life Insurance Company in 1994, which itself was acquired by the Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company in 2002.