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Abbott, Othman A.

Othman A. Abbott (1842-1935), a practicing lawyer at Grand Island beginning in 1867, was not only one of Nebraska's influential pioneer lawyers but also one of the state's first sellers of life insurance. Abbott recalled in 1928, "The federal tax collector found me here [Grand Island] and taxed me ten dollars per annum for a license as an insurance agent. The first insurance I wrote was my own. I took out a thousand dollar life insurance policy in the Mutual Life of New York, paying $20.92 as a yearly premium. It was numbered 102,122 and is now the oldest policy issued by the company in the state.

"I took pains to see to it that the old [Civil War] wound in my side was carefully noted in my application and was much relieved when the doctor passed me as a good risk. I was not only glad to know that my wound was no longer considered a menace to my health, but I was also glad to have the feeling that in the event of my death there would be something left from which any little debts could be paid.

"There was at that time in the west, and perhaps also in other parts of the country, a good deal of prejudice against life insurance, particularly among women. In fact, the hardest part of an insurance agent's job was to persuade the man's wife. Many people had a sort of fatalism about it and believed that taking out life insurance was in itself an invitation to hasten death. A common expression used by a woman was that she didn't want any 'blood money' and didn't want to be 'paid for her husband's death.'"

"When one of the old line life insurance companies urged me to take part in fighting the unsound 'pass around the hat' associations that sprang up, I refused and pointed out to them that these benevolent associations, even if they were not very sound financially, were doing a great deal of good by educating people to understand the value of life insurance."

(February 1999)


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