Thursday, May 31, 2007

1931: first Allstate insurance policy

With a name borrowed from an automobile tire sold in the Sears-Roebuck catalog and $700,000 in Sears funding, the Allstate Insurance Company began on April 17, 1931. On May 17, tool and die maker William Lehnertz became Allstate's first customer, paying $41.60 for a 12-month policy on his Studebaker.

At the Chicago World's Fair in 1933, Richard Roskam became the first Allstate agent when he set up a card table in the Sears exhibit and was swamped with applications. In 1934, Allstate changed its sales methods from direct-mail to Allstate-agent representation, with the opening of the first Allstate sales location in a Chicago Sears store.

In 1939 Allstate startled the insurance industry by tailoring auto rates by age, mileage and use of car. The plan was so popular, that the industry imitated. It didn't take long before Allstate dominated the American auto insurance business.

The highpoint for the Allstate brand was in the 1950s and 1960s, when it appeared on a wide range of products, including garage door openers, fire extinguishers, motor scooters and camper shells. In these years, before seatbelts, heaters, radios, and air conditioners became standard equipment on automobiles, Sears offered a complete line of these accessories under the Allstate brand.

By the end of the 1960s, Sears limited the Allstate brand name to insurance, tires, and automobile batteries. By the mid-1970s, Sears no longer used the Allstate brand on merchandise. In 1995, Allstate became independent, ending Sears' 70-year relationship with the brand it created.

Today, the Allstate Corporation is the nation’s largest publicly held personal lines insurer, with $157.5 billion in assets. (info from Allstate and Sears)

PERSONAL NOTE: Back in 1972, I lived in a nice apartment in a crappy part of the Bronx. I assumed I could not possibly get insurance for the contents of the apartment. One evening, I was in a Sears store, and while waiting for my wife to finish shopping, I wandered over to the Allstate counter. I was both surprised and thrilled to find out that I could get insurance, at a very reasonable price. I stayed in Allstate's good hands for more than 30 years, in four homes. I had big claims for damage from a slow-leaking washing machine, and a fast-leaking fish tank and kitchen sink, and a burglary; and was treated very fairly. I probably got back every penny I paid in premiums.

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