The First Catastrophe Office


Following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 the fire loss adjusters set up an office where they could meet, compare notes, and confer about the hundreds of losses which required adjustment. They agreed on the Sherman House, on West Madison Street and for months afterwards frequent meetings were held and claimants by the hundred were interviewed, the claims adjusted and losses paid. It was a sort of a storm office and the adjusters organized to jointly employed clerks, stenographers and, appraisers.


During the busy days of the work of adjusting, the owner/editor of  The Times newspaper called to see about his loss, and finding a large crowd of people waiting for a similar purpose he became impatient. In those days as in ours, Important Things happen to Important People, and he repaired to his sanctum, publishing a sensational editorial about the delay and red tape in getting his loss adjusted. He had apparently been told that he would have to await his turn; however, he closed his editorial by stating that there ought to be inscribed over the door of the catastrophe office the words, “Who enters here leaves hope behind;” and also made use of the well-known Latin quotation, “Soc Et Tu Um”.

 
The adjusters, apparently delighted with the pomposity, concocted the idea of having a little gold souvenir badge made with the inscription “Soc Et Tu Um” and presented one to each adjuster of the office. It is reported the badges were highly prized and worn as a kind of lapel pin for many years. 

Contributed by:
Jerry Provencher
CEO/Executive General Adjuster
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Did the Cow Start the Fire?

 
 
Modern day forensic investigations have questioned the origin of The Great Chicago Fire as being the much maligned Mrs. O’Leary’s cow. However, Phoenix Insurance Company General Adjuster Robert S. Critchell confirmed he interviewed Mrs. O’Leary following the fire and he was “…informed by her in rather an ungracious way that the story was true. “


Recollections of a Fire Insurance Man, Press of Rogers & Hall Co., 1909

 
 

Contributed by:
Jerry Provencher

CEO/Executive General Adjuster
 
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Did you know…?

Did you know…?
 
Cleanup at Clark and Madison Streets after Chicago Fire, IL, 1871.
The reason a small fire turned into a $60M conflagration in Boston in 1871 was “epizootic”…. A disease that so disabled horses that they could not pull the fire wagons and only three self-propelled fire engines were available to fight the fires that destroyed the business district.
 
 
Contributed by:
CEO/Executive General Adjuster
 
 
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