From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Kentucky and Insurance Policies on Slaves

There is a long history of insurance policies on the lives of slaves, dating back to medieval times. In the 1500s, when slaves from Africa were considered part of the cargo brought to European countries, the slaves were insured. The practice of insuring human property was not new when African slaves were brought to the United States. In Kentucky, during the 1800s, slave owners had several options for purchasing policies on the lives of their slaves. Within the state, was the Lexington Fire, Life and Marine Insurance Company. This particular company was chartered by the Kentucky Legislature in 1836 with John W. Hunt as president, and board members John Norton, John Tilford, Elisha Warfield, John Brand, and Thomas Smith, all in Lexington; Thomas Y. Brent in Paris; and David Irvine in Richmond [source: "Chapter 425. An Act to Incorporate the Lexington Fire, Life and Marine Insurance Company. Acts Passed at the First Session of the Forty-Fourth General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, 1836, pp.601-604].

The table of rates was published within the company ads, an example is the ad in the Covington Journal dated 06/22/1850, on p.4. The company's earliest ads in 1836 did not mention policies on slaves; that notation was added around 1838, see the Lexington Fire, Life and Marine Insurance Company ad on p.4 of the Kentucky Gazette, 05/24/1838. In Frankfort, KY, H. B. Farrar was an insurance agent on St. Claire Street, his ad read "Lives of Negroes Insured. Insurance on Slaves." [source: Daily Commonwealth (Frankfort, KY), 03/04/1854, p.1].

Other companies that offered life insurance policies to slave owners in Kentucky included the Phoenix Life Insurance Company in St. Louis, MO, see "Insure Your Slaves" within the ad for Mutual Life Insurance on p.2 of the Daily Commonwealth, 10/31/1849. In Danville, KY, the Aetna Life Insurance Company agent was A. S. McGororty, see their ad on p.1 of The Kentucky Tribune, 02/22/1856; the Aetna Life Insurance Company was located in Hartford, Connecticut. In Louisville, KY, the Thomas S. Kennedy and Brothers, General Insurance Agents at No.413 South Side of Main Street, represented insurance companies in New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. The ad for Thomas S. Kennedy Brothers on p.4 of the Daily Louisville Democrat, 09/05/1861, included the line "INSURANCE ON LIVES OF SLAVES engaged in any kind of employment."

These are only a few of the companies, there were many others. For the names of more insurance companies that insured the lives of slaves in Kentucky, see the advertisements placed in Kentucky newspapers prior to 1866.

For more on the history of insuring slaves, see The Development of the Principles of Insurance Law in the Netherlands from 1500 to 1800 volume one by J. P. Van Niekerk; Speculators and Slaves: masters, traders, and slaves in the old south by M. Tadman; Encyclopedia of the Middle Passage edited by T. Falola and A. Warnock; and Investing in Life: insurance in Antebellum America by S. A. Murphy. See also the online article by M. S. Quinn,  "Slavery & insurance: examining slave insurance in a world 150 years removed," Insurance Journal, 05/15/2000.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Fayette County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Franklin County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Boyle County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Lexington, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Frankfort, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Danville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

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“Kentucky and Insurance Policies on Slaves,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 21, 2024,

Last modified: 2017-09-14 21:44:40