The Resource General Business Records

General Business Records

General Business Records, 1795-1965
General Business Records
Inclusive dates
  • The Mutual Assurance Society of Virginia General Business Records are housed in 141 boxes and arranged into six series. Series have been designated for I. Administrative Records; II. Correspondence, Incoming; III. Correspondence, Outgoing; IV. General Accounts; V. Inspection Reports; and VI. Collection lists and Town and Country Quotas. The records include account books, bylaws, checkbooks, claims, collection lists, constitutions, correspondence, deeds, inspection reports, journals, minutes, notices to withdraw insurance, receipts, town and country quotas, vouchers, and wills. These records document the history of one of the earliest insurance agencies in Virginia. Many notable Virginian's such as Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, and Bushrod Washington held policies with the company
  • The Mutual Assurance Society Records are organized into two distinct groupings, General Business Records (Accession 28135) and Declarations and Revaluations of Assurance (Accession 30177). Although the Declarations and Revaluations are considered part of the Mutual Assurance Records, the size and scope of the collection made it necessary to create a more separate distinction within the collection. This separation was created because of the way in which the records were accessed and in order to make the General Business records more readily available
  • This catalog record is for the General Business Records only. The Declarations and Revaluations of Assurance, 1796-1966, have a partial finding aid available in the Archives Research Room. The policies, 1796-1867, are indexed. For post 1867, Sanborn maps are available to help locate policies. The Declarations and Revaluations of Assurance consist of forms numbered and designated as a new policy or 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 signature of the insured. An appraisers 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. Revaluations of assurance contain the same information and reference to the prior declaration number
  • Series I: Administrative Records, 1795-1899, is housed in 11 boxes and arranged alphabetically by folder title. This series consists of annual statements, bylaws, constitutions and resolutions, and minutes
  • Series II: Correspondence, Incoming, 1795-1865, is housed in 52 boxes and arranged alphabetically by last name of correspondent, then chronologically by year. The series includes correspondence from agents and subscribers throughout Virginia. Each letter is endorsed on the back with the authors name and date received. The majority of the letters were sent to Principal Agents William F. Ast, Samuel Greenhow, James Rawlings, and Col. John Rutherford
  • Series III: Correspondence, Outgoing, 1805-1906, includes 24 letterbook volumes housed in 17 boxes and arranged chronologically. The main correspondents of the letters were the Principal Agents of Mutual Assurance during the 1805-1899 period: William F. Ast, John Rutherfoord, and Herbert A. Claiborne. Most of the correspondence was with agents in the field relating to issues over increases in coverage, applications, losses, and requests for replacement policies. Many of the letterbooks include indexes at the beginning of the volumes
  • Series IV: General Accounts, 1799-1913, is housed in 27 boxes and arranged alphabetically by folder title. This series consists of account books, bank deposit slips, certificates of qualifications, checkbooks, claims, daily report of risks, deeds, journals, notices to withdraw insurance, transfers of property and policies, vouchers and receipts, and wills
  • Series V: Inspection Reports, 1944-1965, consists of 21 volumes of reports on houses maninly in Richmond, Virginia. Included are a few reports from Danville, Norfolk, Petersburg, Suffolk, and Winchester, Virginia. The reports include the location of the house, use of building, distance from fire hydrant, construction material, age of building, estimated cost to rebuild, and general questions about the condition of the housekeeping and location of the house
  • Series VI: Collection lists and Town and Country quotas, 1796-1884, consist of 82 volumes housed in 48 boxes. The collection lists, 1847-1884, are indexed by town name and include the name of the insured, policy number, principal and interest collected for the year. The Town and Country quotas, 1796-1869, lists by country or town the declaration number, name of subscriber, name of transferee, number of buildings insured, and premium and quota collected
  • For a detailed scope and content note, series description, and historical background note please refer to the finding aid, which is available in the repository and online
Member of
Additional physical form
also available on microfilm (Misc. Reels 460a-c, 2160).
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
General Business Records
Accession numbers 24644, 26238, 26893, 28135, 30178, 33942, and 37025 are ALL FILED UNDER ACCESSION 28135
  • The Library of Virginia
Cumulative index finding aids
  • Inventory
  • Inventory
Immediate source of acquisition
  • King, George H.S.
  • Newman, Julia Sweet
  • King, George H.S.
  • Mutual Assurance Society of Virginia
  • Mutual Assurance Society of Virginia
  • Mutual Assurance Society of Virginia
  • Mutual Assurance Society of Virginia
Organization method
Organized into six series. Series have been designated for: I. Adminstrative Records; II. Correspondence, Incoming; III. Correspondence, Outgoing; IV: General Accounts; V. Inspection Reports; and VI. Town and County Quotas.
Type of unit
cu. ft.

Library Locations

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