Stories from the archive solar system - logos, mottos and telegraphic addresses...
25 Apr 2016
We've recently unveiled two new digital archive installations in the reception area in our head office, St Helen’s. As part of the building’s refurbishment plans we were given some space for a history wall and we’ve taken the opportunity to show off our amazing heritage using the latest technology.
Aviva Solar System screenshot
The first of our installations, which we have called ‘Solar System’, is a virtual family tree that can be used to find out how the hundreds of companies which make up Aviva came together over more than three centuries to create the company we work for today. We’ve put together a brief history of each company and how it became part of the Aviva family, and…
Aviva Solar System displaying Norwich Union Fire 'family tree'
… where we have images or film for the company we’ve included those too.
Aviva Solar System company history example
The Solar System also has a feature which allows you to flick through some of the remarkable material we have in the archive; for the first time we can share not just images but entire documents - ranging from a booklet welcoming staff to the new St Helen’s building in 1969, to fire surveyors' plans drawn up in the 1890s.
I’ve learned so many new things about our companies whilst carrying out research for this project that I thought I’d write this blog to share some of them.
Aviva Solar System in situ at St Helen's
We thought it would be interesting to put each company’s logo (or equivalent) alongside its history and, although we haven’t managed it for every company, we have found a fascinating range of images chosen by our historic companies to brand their policies and advertising material. We’ve assembled a rich assortment of logos and decorative policy headers featuring everything from fish in trees (sort of)...
City of Glasgow Life Assurance Company, Prospectus cover (1909)
… to castles, …
English Estates Assurance Ltd, Logo (1965)
… lighthouses, …
Ocean Accident, Press advertisement (1924)
… sailing ships, …
Indemnity Marine Assurance Company, Logo (1924)
… bishops, …
Glasgow Assurance, Logo (1910)
… suns …
Sun Life, Logo (1915)
… and car wheels.
International Motor Insurance Company Ltd, Logo (1900s)
We also have a positive menagerie of animals, including bulldogs, …
Travellers' Insurance Association Ltd, Baggage sticker (1920s)
… lions, …
Scottish Accident Insurance Company, Logo (1887)
… peacocks, …
Arbuthnot Latham, Logo (1988)
… bees, …
L'Abeille Compagnies d'Assurances, Logo (1879)
… leopards, …
Bon Accord, Policy header detail (1847)
… and dragons.
Welsh Insurance Corporation Ltd, Letterhead detail (1920)
As well as an exotic array of logos, our companies adopted an enviable range of mottos. These appeared on policies and promotional materials and acted rather like brand promises or as advertising straplines do now. The most surprising thing about the collected mottos of these ancestor companies is how similar they are to the messages we give our customers today – the essential purpose of insurance has not changed over the centuries - the only difference is the language used (as would have been usual in the period, most of the mottos are in Latin).
The mottos fall broadly into two categories – those which emphasised the protective, prudent nature of insurance (or freeing people from the fear of uncertainly) and those which stressed the benefits of insurance to society (good thinking).
In the protective and prudent group we start with ‘anchora salutis’ or ‘ the anchor of safety’, which was used by Commercial Union, while General Accident (and several of the companies it absorbed) selected the phrase ‘moneo et munio’ which means ‘I warn and I protect’.
Occidental Fire Insurance Company, Logo (1925)
The motto ‘semper paratus’ (above), which can be translated as ‘always ready’ belonged to a Canadian company called Occidental Fire and this sentiment was echoed by Employers’ Liability Assurance with the motto ‘in omnia paratus’, which can be translated as ’prepared for everything’.
Employers' Liability Assurance, Logo (c 1909)
Meanwhile, the Guardian Plate Glass Insurance Company was freeing people from the fear of uncertainty over 150 years ago by adopting the motto ‘prudentia curas aufert’, which can be translated as ‘foresight removes worry’.
Guardian Plate Glass Insurance Company, Logo (1894)
Many of the life companies in the group chose mottos which emphasised the benefits of insurance for society as a whole; for example, Reliance Mutual Life chose an extract from a poem by the Roman poet Virgil ‘sic vos non vobis’, which can loosely be translated as ‘thus we labour but not for ourselves’.
Reliance Mutual Life, Prospectus cover (1870s)
The theme was continued by companies like: Briton Medical and General, whose motto was ‘nemo sibi vivat’ or ‘no man lives for himself'; British Protector Mutual, with the motto ‘non nobis solum’, which can be translated as ‘not for ourselves alone’; ...
British Protector Mutual Life Assurance Company, Policy header detail (1857)
... and the City Life Assurance Company’s ‘non sibi sed omnibus’, which gives the message ‘not for oneself but for all’.
City Life Assurance Company, Logo (1907)
Two of our companies deserve special mention for selecting mottos that seem to have slightly less relevance to the sale of insurance: the Scottish Live Stock Insurance Company’s motto was ‘pro rege, lege et grege’, which can be translated as ‘for the king, the law, and the people’; while North and South Insurance Corporation chose ‘festina lente’, which can be translated as ‘make haste slowly’ (which was a shame as the company only lasted for seven years).
North and South Insurance Corporation, Press advertisement (1912)
Research for the Solar System has also given me the opportunity for a closer look at the telegraphic addresses used by Aviva companies over the years. These addresses appeared in local directories and were the equivalent of e-mail or website addresses today, both promoting and allowing (relatively) speedy contact with our companies. Often these were very sensible addresses giving the name of the company or linked to the service it provided, like ‘INSURE, London’ or ‘COVER, Manchester’: by 1888 UK Provident had the telegraphic address ‘PRECAUTION, London’, while Alliance Plate Glass selected ‘QUOTATION, Bristol’. I did, however, come across some more outlandish addresses – these were probably chosen through necessity as ‘better’ names had already been taken, but I prefer to think of them as reflections of more ingenious minds.
Omnium Insurance Corporation, Press advertisement (1910)
The Omnium Insurance Corporation was an early composite insurer and liked to stress the fact that it covered everything (hence the name Omnium from the Latin for 'all'). The company reinforced this message with the telegraphic address ‘THOROUGH, London.’ Another company which chose to give customers an important message with its telegraphic address was the Mortgage Insurance Corporation, which was established to guarantee loans and advances on mortgages and chose the address ‘THRIFTINESS, London’.
Companies specialising in boiler insurance embraced addresses like ‘STEAM, Manchester’ - which belonged to the English and Scottish Boiler Insurance Company, while the Yorkshire Boiler and Steam Users Company selected ‘POWERFUL, London’. Faced with competitors using such strong words in their addresses the London and Scottish Boiler Insurance company chose 'MODERNNESS, London’ for its address which emphasised the fact that it specialised in the insurance of ‘up-to-date’ electric plant as well as steam boilers.
London & Scottish Boiler Insurance Company, Letterhead (1902)
In the 1930s the National Safe Deposit Company’s telegraphic address was ‘BOMBPROOF, Cannon, London’ to emphasise the security of the building in which its customers were encouraged to keep their valuables: as you can just see in the image below, this had to be changed to ‘CITADEL, Cannon, London’ after its head office building was hit by a bomb during the Second World War.
National Safe Deposit & Trustee Company, Brochure (late 1930s)
Finally, my two favourite telegraphic addresses are: ‘TARTAN London’, which was aptly chosen by the Scottish Imperial Insurance Company; and ‘PIQUANCY, London’, which appears to have been adopted entirely at random by the Fine Art and General Insurance Company.
Fine Art & General Insurance Company, Press advertisement (1949)
There are still lots of stories to share, so keep an eye out for my next blog where I will be discussing the black sheep and unsung heroes of Aviva’s family tree.