The Resource Declarations and revaluations of assurance

Declarations and revaluations of assurance

Declarations and revaluations of assurance, 1796-1966
Declarations and revaluations of assurance
Inclusive dates
  • These records consist of 259 volumes of individual applications- called declarations and revaluations of assurance- dating from 1796 to 1966. Each printed form is numbered and is designated as a new policy or a revaluation. Policies include the name of the insured, place of residence, location of the insured property (with references to contiguous property), the name of the occupant of the property, a description and estimated value of each structure insured, and the date and the signature of the insured. An appraiser's statement regarding the value of the property is also included on each policy. At the bottom of each policy appears a sketch of the insured property. In most instances the sketches are rough outlines of the buildings as if viewed from above. The roofing material and distance from streets and from other structures are also noted. Agents sketched and compiled structural details about many of the great houses owned by Virginia's wealthy planters and entrepreneurs, but they also documented modest cottages, urban slave-quarters, and a variety of rural and urban outbuildings. Revaluations of insured property were required every seven years (or whenever additions were made to a policy), so succeeding declarations often showed additions to the original building, new outbuildings, and new uses for old buildings
  • Indexes are available for the declarations and revaluations, 1796-1867. An index done by the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission is available for the policies, 1796-1867 (Misc. reels 776-780, Acc. 30790). The index is arranged alphabetically by city and county, plantations, estates, taverns, hotels, and other public buildings
  • Another index is available for the policies, 1796-1821 (Misc. reel 433, Acc. 26199). This index is arranged alphabetically by surname. The index is available on either microfilm or bound photocopies
  • For policies dated after 1867, an index is not available. Researchers must consult the Sanborn maps located in the collection and find the corresponding declaration number
  • These records also include a policy book, 1796-1803, containing copies of insurance policies issued in Richmond, Henrico, and Chesterfield Counties, Virginia. Each policy contains the name of the insurer, brief description of the property, and the sum for which insured. Declaration numbers also appear. All policies are signed by William Fousheee, president, and William F. Ast, principal agent. Also included is a policy book, 1798-1803, containing declarations for insuring goods and implements
  • The collection also includes Sanborn fire insurance maps which are annotated with policy numbers for insured property in Virginia. Included are maps for: Alexandria (1931); Charlottesville (1929-1959); Fredericksburg (1927); Harrisonburg, Leesburg, Smithfield, Warrenton (1907-1926); Lexington (1930); Norfolk (1928-1960); Petersburg (1915-1955); Richmond (1952); South Richmond (1952); Staunton (1929); Suffolk (1920, 1926-1960); Williamsburg (1933); and Winchester (1927)
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Is part of
Biographical or historical data
  • The following is a brief outline of the Mutual Assurance Society's history. The history of the company has been the subject of several publications, which should be consulted for more in-depth presentations:
  • - John B. Danforth and Herbert A. Claiborne. "Historical Sketch of the Mutual Assurance Society of Virginia, From its Organization in 1794 to 1879." (W.E. Jones, 1879)
  • - Richard Love. "Founded Upon Benevolence: A Bicentennial History of the Mutual Assurance Society of Virginia." (The Valentine: 1994)
  • The Mutual Assurance Society against Fire on Buildings, of the State of Virginia, was incorporated by the General Assembly on 22 December 1794. The plan of the society was suggested by William Frederick Ast, a Prussian then residing in Richmond, and is alleged to have been modeled after a system of mutual guarantee introduced by Frederick the Great.
  • As required by the act of incorporation, a subscription of three million dollars was necessary before the charter could be carried into effect. As a result, the organizational meeting of the society was not held until 24 December 1795. At that meeting, a constitution, rules, and regulations were adopted and officers selected. The general office of the society was to be in Richmond, Virginia. Management was to be by the president and directors, while the principal agent and cashier-general were charged with administrative duties. The following officers were selected: William Foushee, President; James Bradder, James Brown, Jacob J. Cohen, Andrew Dunscomb, William Duval, Robert Mitchell, George Pickett, and Bushrod Washington, Directors for Richmond and vicinity; Robert Bolling, Director for Petersburg; George French, Director for Fredericksburg; Alexander St. Clair, Director for Staunton; Jonah Thompson, Director for Alexandria; John Peyton, Director for Winchester; Thomas Newton, Director for Norfolk; Jacquelin Ambler, Cashier-General; and William F. Ast, Principal agent. The society eventually insured property in Virginia, West Virginia (until 1868), and the District of Columbia. Policies began to be written in March 1796. One of the first policies was written for John Marshall, the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; other early clients included Thomas Jefferson, "Light-Horse" Harry Lee, James Monroe, and Bushrod Washington.
  • Insurance offered by the society was against all losses and damages occasioned accidentally by fire. Rates of hazard were determined by the material composition of the buildings, by the users to which the buildings were put, and by what may be kept in them. Mills, playhouses, liveries, and buildings containing machinery propelled by steam or in which combustible articles were stored could be insured only by special contract. Revaluations of insured property were required every seven years or whenever additions were made to a policy.
  • Until 1819, the society returned to policy holders the interest accumulated on its reserve fund in excess of the amount deemed necessary to pay annual claims for losses and damages. When costs exceeded income, the society was authorized to require members to pay quotas, the amount depending on the sum insured and the rate of the hazard. Insured property was considered security and could be sold to obtain the quotas. Annual quotas were not regularly required until 1809.
  • During its history the society made numerous revisions in its constitution. In 1805, the number of directors was reduced, and in 1809 the offices of president, cashier-general, and the directors were abolished. In their place a committee was to be appointed by the annual general meeting. While property located in towns and rural areas was initially insured alike, a constitutional change in 1805 established town and country branches. Funds were divided between the two branches and the premiums, quotas, and claims were kept separately. Because of heavy losses sustained by the country branch, no new insurance of rural property was issued after 15 August 1818. The country branch was eventually abolished in March 1822.
  • Up to the Civil War, the society was financially secure and prosperous. Although war risks were not taken by the society and any damage caused by invasion was not covered by the assurance, the financial crisis caused by inflation, currency depreciation, and the loss of investments with the fall of the Confederacy left the society without a dollar in money. However, the societys reserve fund, required by law, enabled it to recover rapidly from the effects of the war.
  • In May 1905 work was completed on a new nine story office building for the Mutual Assurance Society, located in downtown Richmond. The company survived World War I and World War II intact, even abating quotas for its members in 1945. During the tenure of G. Moffett King Sr. and Jr., the Society made several changes in the types of policies it wrote. Coverage was extended and homeowner's insurance was offered, which eventually became the Society's primary insurance product. The articles of incorporation were amended in 1982 to change the name from The Mutual Assurance Society Against Fire on Buildings of the State of Virginia, to its present name, Mutual Assurance Society of Virginia. In 1991 the offices in downtown Richmond were sold and the company relocated to the west end of Richmond. After 210 years the company continues to prosper in Virginia, remaining the oldest incorporated business in Virginia.
  • List of Principal Agents: William F. Ast 24 Dec. 1795- 20 Sept. 1807; Samuel Greenhow 7 Jan. 1808-17 Feb. 1815; James Rawlings 4 March 1815-12 April 1837; John Rutherford 19 April 1837-3 Aug. 1866; Herbert A. Claiborne 13 Aug. 1866-15 Feb. 1902; Edwin A. Palmer 24 Feb. 1902-12 Nov. 1928; W. Meade Addison 23 Nov. 1928-7 Jan. 1954; G. Moffett King 7 Jan. 1954-1 Feb. 1960; G. Moffett King, Jr. 1 Feb. 1960-12 Sept. 1966; S. Vernon Priddy, Jr. 6 Dec. 1966-1981; L. Gerald Roach 1981-.
  • List of Presidents: William Foushee 24 Dec. 1795-13 Aug. 1804, Resigned; Alexander McRae 13 Aug. 1804-16 Feb. 1809, Office abolished.
Cataloging source
Location of other archival material
The index to this collection is titled:
Declarations and revaluations of assurance
  • Accession numbers 26199, 29986, 30177, 31634, 33880, and 33942 are ALL FILED UNDER ACCESSION 30177
  • The Declarations and revaluations of assurance, 1796-1867 (Volumes 1-138) are available on microfilm and should be served instead of the originals. (Misc. reels 4121-4143)
  • For additional information see Research Notes Number 24, written by a Library of Virginia staff member describing the collection. A searchable database is also available for policies in Richmond and Henrico County, from 1796-1867
  • The Mutual Assurance Society Records are organized into two distinct groupings, General Business Records (Accession 28135) and Declarations and Revaluations of Assurance (Accession 30177). This catalog record is for the Declarations and Revaluations of Assurance only
  • The Library of Virginia
Cumulative index finding aids
  • Index database located at University of Mary Washington:
  • Inventory
  • 290
  • 52
  • 23
Immediate source of acquisition
  • Mutual Assurance Society
  • Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission
  • Mutual Assurance Society
  • Mutual Assurance Society
  • Mutual Assurance Society
  • Mutual Assurance Society
Type of unit
  • volumes and
  • boxes.
  • reels.



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Library Locations

    • Library of VirginiaBorrow it
      800 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA, 23219, US
      37.5415632 -77.4360805
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