When Lincoln Financial Group sells its office park and campus in Concord’s North End (you can buy it for $ 6 million) and no longer has an employer presence in Capital City, it will close the books on more than a century of history Life underwriting for a succession of companies.
That story began in 1913, when a group of important Concord citizens founded United Life & Accident Insurance Company, first located at 65 North Main Street, in the heart of the city center. Among the first executives and directors were brothers S.W. and John B. Jameson, Benjamin W. Crouch, fire and accident insurance executive Charles L. Jackman and the secretary of the new company. Allen E. Hollis, one of the most prominent lawyers in the city (Hollis became president of United Life in 1923).
The company appears to have close ties to the Republican Party, as governors of New Hampshire. Rolland H. Spaulding (elected in 1916) and Henry W. Keyes (elected in 1918) were added to the company’s board of directors.
The young life insurance company prospered and had brokers selling their products across the east coast. He kept most of his reserves in interest-free accounts at Concord banks, which made bankers happy. It also invested in railroad and municipal bonds and bought about 6% of agricultural mortgages in Kansas and Nebraska. Then bankruptcy came – the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl in the lowland states. United Life also suffered setbacks and even stopped spending money to get new business.
After World War II, the sun reappeared for the company, and in 1951, it moved to the old Durgin Silver Company building on 2 White Street (now home to the UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law). The new leadership on the board came from attorney Dudley W. Orr and, as chairman, Douglas B. Whiting.
In the late 1950s, United Life had prospered to the point of becoming an attractive takeover target, and in a defensive move, Orr led the company to a friendly takeover by Keene-based Peerless Insurance Company, which Orr also exercised. the control. Soon, however, United Life eclipsed Peerless in value, and Orr planned a stock split that brought United Life back to independence. Orr also hired a young graduate from Yale Law School, whose father had been Orr’s roommate in Dartmouth and Harvard Law School. His name was John F. Swope, and he would have a big stake in the company’s future.
United Life continued to grow and prosper, innovating a new product in the late 1960s called ULAICO, which combined life insurance with title ownership. According to their “Hampshire Plan”, agents sold insurance that was paid in 10 years along with an attractive investment in mutual funds. It was a huge success and United Life was again the main acquisition target. Wanting to control his fate as much as possible, the company hired a merger specialist, T. Benson Leavitt, and commissioned him to request the best offer.
The fit applicant was a New Jersey company, Chubb Insurance Company, whose president, Percy Chubb, was a former student at Concord’s St. Paul’s School. The fit between Chubb and United Life was good and the merger was consummated in the summer of 1971. That was the end of United Life’s corporate name, but hardly the end of the story.
John Swope helped lead United Life to the pinnacle of success and, in 1977, was rewarded as president of the Chubb Insurance Company. Soon after that, Chubb left the White Street building and entered a new “campus” called One Granite Place, uphill above the intersection of Rumford and Penacook Streets. A 96,000-square-foot, 4-story building housed the growing company for just a few years, and another 114,000-square-foot building was built in 1985, all on a 178-acre campus. Chubb appointed John Swope President of Chubb in 1977 and, in 1982, the company adopted its new name, Chubb LifeAmerica. Chubb employed about 750 people in Concord at its peak in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Concord won with the presence of Chubb’s operations within its borders. Swope and the Chubb leadership became active in helping the city gain positive recognition in the world of arts, giving generously to the Capitol Center for the Arts (where the big stage and auditorium were called the Chubb Theater), Concord City Auditorium, New Hampshire Public Radio and more. The works of local artists were hung in the public areas of Chubb’s buildings. And John Swope and his wife, Marjory, became recognized community leaders. Swope says the company’s civic engagement reflected the commitment of United Life’s founders to public service.
Things generally went well and the company grew until the early 1990s, when Wall Street pressured Chubb to return to its roots as an elementary business and to sell its life insurance business. Swope was forced to leave the presidency on December 31, 1994 and his place was taken by merger and acquisition specialist Theresa Stone, who planned to sell the life insurance to Jefferson-Pilot Corporation, based in North Carolina. Later, Jefferson-Pilot moved its headquarters to Nebraska and, in 2006, merged with the Lincoln National Life Insurance Company, based in Pennsylvania. This diversified to become the Lincoln Financial Group, and began a slow but deliberate downsizing of Concord’s operations. This brings us to the end of the road to the small life insurance company known as United Life and Accident Insurance Company.
To read more about this story and several other insurance companies that grew with Concord’s progress, see “Insurance: the business that replace the railroad”, Chapter 14 of “Crosscurrents of Change: Concord, NH in the 20th Century” published by the Concord Historical Society. It can be purchased on the Society’s website or at Gibson’s Bookstore.