The Insurance History of the White City.
We have many pleasant recollections of the great fair, says The Investigator, and one not the least is its insurance history. From the first we insisted that the insurance men of the country should lend aid and countenance to the project, because without insurance the fair would have been impossible. We realized also that it would be possible to destroy all the insurance companies of the country if they wrote freely on the values that would be piled up in the White City and there should come a destructive conflagration. While many of our contemporaries were insisting that, owing to the character of the buildings, there would surely be a great loss, we were asserting that Chicago pluck and energy would prevent anything of the kind. The buildings grew rapidly and insurance was called for. The managers of the exposition promised all possible protection, and agreed to appoint a committee of insurance men to have supervision of the insurance interests, and also agreed to abide by suggestions made by such committee. Accordingly the committee was appointed, and known as “ The Insurance Auxiliary Committee of the World’s Columbian Exposition.” Its members were : Fred S. James, chairman ; R. S. Critchell, O. W. Barrett, W. A. Alexander, J. H. Moore and R. A. Waller. This committee worked early and late during the constructive period of the World’s Fair, and when that was past was ever on the alert. It caused the management of the fair to put in trained firemen, and not amateurs, to protect the grounds, and all during the exposition there was on hand a fire department superior to that in the service of cities of 50,000 to 100,000 people. These men were equipped with the best apparatus. A fire boat was built especially for service in the lagoons; the Columbian Guard was under military discipline, and was available for fighting fires. The committee insisted that fire stops should be placed under the floors of the enormous buildings ; that hollow columns be filled, that the electric light wires be installed after the most improved methods, that the petroleum fuel supply plant be reconstructed and a thousand other things be done.
All these things took time and cost large sums of money, and meanwhile insurance was being rapidly taken out on the buildings and contents. Millions of dollars were written by the companies, and in many quarters there was fear and trembling. Not so among the Chicago men. They insisted that the companies could safely write on the buildings at a reasonable premium, and they are now enjoying well-earned satisfaction over the outcome. In the midst of their labors O. W. Barrett, one of the most earnest workers on the committee, died, much to the regret of his co-laborers. David Beveridge, who acted as assistant secretary of the committee during the constructive period, and whose experience and attention were of great value, resigned, and was succeeded by S. T. Collins.
The cold storage warehouse horror was regretable, but the committee was in nowise to blame therefor, and the insurance companies suffered but little on account of the disaster.
The committee, in order to be on the safe side, devised a sliding scale for the decrease of the policies on the buildings at the fair, and as a result there is now but one-fifth of the value of the policies written on the buildings in force, and this expires December 1. The companies have received from the exposition company over $250,090 in premiums, and the losses paid are less than $10,000. This is a most excellent result, and we join with the auxiliary committee in rejoicing that they are able to give so good an account of their stewardship.