Fraternal life insurance companies occupy their own niche in the life insurance market today. All trace their roots back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when hundreds of mutual benefit societies were formed in order to provide death benefits and life insurance to individuals who joined. Most of these organizations had initiation rituals which were later dropped as these fraternal organizations morphed into more traditional life insurance companies.
Life insurance companies are, naturally, risk averse. And they were back when they existed as mutual benefit societies. The 1907 Constitution and By-Laws of the Beavers' Reserve Fund Fraternity (pictured here), a mutual benefit society established in Stoughton, Wisconsin in 1902, made it clear that people whose occupations were dangerous were disqualified from being members. Here's Section 9 of the By-Laws:
No person engaged in any of the following occupations shall become a beneficial member of the Fraternity:
Railroad conductor, brakeman, switchman, fireman or locomotive engineer; miner employed underground; mine inspector or mine tracklayer; pit boss; professional rider or driver in races; professional baseball or football player, aeronaut; sailor on the Great Lakes or seas; engineer or fireman on any steamer; plow polisher, plow grinder; submarine operator; paid fireman in any city of more than fifteen thousand inhabitants; empoyee in slag furnace or lead works; soldier in the regular army or in time of war; employee in any factory where gunpowder, nitroglycerine, dynamite or any other dangerous explosive is manufactured; glass blower, oil well "shooter," brass finisher, steel blaster, professional nurse, employee in color or white lead factory, circus equestrian or trapeze performer.
The list is both a chilling reminder of some dangerous occupations (oil well "shooters") and also contains some reminders that even the whimsical-sounding jobs (trapeze performer) are there for a reason.
As for the Beavers' Reserve Fund Fraternity, it was established in Stoughton, Wisconsin in 1902. In 1912, the organization changed its name to Beavers National Mutual Benefit. In 1931, they dropped "Beavers" from the name and simply became National Mutual Benefit, the name they still go by today.
Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics keeps track of occupational injuries and fatalities [pdf], which you might be more familiar with as a news story about the most dangerous jobs in America.
Stay tuned for more on the Beavers in an upcoming post.
Constitution and By-Laws of the Beavers Reserve Fund Fraternity, Adopted by Grand Colony. (Mount Morris, IL: Press of Kable Brothers Company, )
Call number: HS1510 B42 1906
Gift of Michael T. Heitke