The insurance agent's visits to homes, early 20th century UK
By the webmaster’s mother, 1906-2002
Life insurance and why it was essential
When I was a child in the early 1900s, almost everyone had life insurance because it was a dreadful stigma for there not to be enough money to pay for a proper funeral. Without life insurance, the funeral would be very basic indeed, funded by the parish.
Money was really tight in those days, but it could always be found for life insurance, even by the poorest of families living in slums.
The Penny Policy
Life insurance started as soon as a new baby was born, when the parents would take out what was called a penny policy.After a certain number of years the penny policy would be free.
There was also insurance for the contents of the house but not for the house itself because all the houses where I lived on the Huxley Estate in Edmonton (now Enfield) were rented, not owned. This was normal for wherever working class families lived.
Elsewhere on this website is considerable detail on insuring a house and contents in the 1930s.
The insurance agent who drummed up business and collected fees
An agent from the insurance company would call at the house every month to collect to the fee for the insurance, and he (never she) would enter the payment into a book that he carried.
Agents were paid on commission. So a successful agent had to have an outgoing personality, seem trustworthy and have a persuasive tongue. He made it his business to know wherever there was a new baby and would do his utmost to get the business ahead of other agents.
Our insurance agent was Mr Clarke. My mother said time and time again what a nice man he was. Little did I know then that I would later marry his second son, Len. Len tended to keep himself to himself, so would never have had the outgoing personality to be an insurance agent. His sister, Doris, on the other hand, who was always ready with a smile and a "good morning" did join her father at the Prudential.