May 3, 1899, New York Times, Obit, DEATH OF HENRY B. HYDE;
Equitable Life's President Succumbs to Heart Disease.
HAD BEEN ILL FOR ONE YEAR.
Career of the Man Who Organized the Assurance Society and Brought It to Its Present Position.
Henry Baldwin Hyde, President of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, and one of the best-known life insurance authorities in the United States, died yesterday afternoon of heart disease, at his residence, 9 East Fortieth Street. Mr. Hyde had been confined to his house for a year, but lately his physicians had considered him on the road to recovery. The malady from which he suffered took a turn for the worse three days ago, however, and from that time it was known that his death was but a matter of hours. Several of his close business associates sat by his bedside to the last. At the deathbed were also the members of his family, Mrs. Hyde, Mrs. Sidney Dillon Ripley, the only daughter, and James H. Hyde, the only son. Arrangements for the funeral services and internment have not yet been made.
Henry B. Hyde was born in Catskill, N.Y., Feb. 15, 1834. He was descended of an old Colonial family established in Newtown, Mass. , in 1633 by William Hyde of England. He came to New York in the year 1850, and for the next two years was employed by Messrs. Merritt, Ely & Co., merchants of this city. In January, 1852, he obtained a clerkship in the office of the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York, and was subsequently made cashier of that company.
His attention was called to life assurance early in life. In addition to his knowledge of the business obtained from his experience in the office of the Mutual Company, he acquired a great deal of useful and interesting information on the subject from his father, Henry H. Hyde of Boston, who was one of the most conspicuous and successful life assurance men of his day. Mr. Hyde, the father, lived for many years in Boston, representing the Mutual Life Insurance Company as its General Manager for New England.
In March, 1859, Mr. Hyde announced to Frederick S. Winston, President of the Mutual Company, that he had come to the conclusion that there was room in the life assurance business for a new company, organized along new lines, and that, after careful consideration, he had decided to organize such a company. He thereupon tendered his resignation, which was accepted by Mr. Winston, to take effect forthwith. Two days later he delivered up his keys, the cash and securities under his charge having been examined by the Actuaries of the company and found correct.
The Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States was incorporated on the 26th of July of the same year, but a great deal of preliminary work was done before its organization. After his retirement from the office of the Mutual Company Mr. Hyde rented a rear room on the second floor of 98 Broadway, at an annual rental of $900, and placed a sign bearing the title of the company on the front of the building.
Mr. Hyde associated with himself a number of prominent men, who with him became the incorporators and the original Board of Directors of the society.
It was often stated by Mr. Hyde that at this period he constantly consulted his father, and that it was to a large extent owing to his advice, based on his great experience, that no mistakes were made in the organization and early management of the society.
SOCIETY'S MODEST BEGINNINGS.
William G. Lambert, a New York merchant, was one of the original Directors, as was also his son, Dr. Edward W. Lambert, who was made the society's physician, and who has continued ever since to be its senior Medical Director. Dr. Willard Parker was appointed Consulting Physician. Henry Day, another of the original Directors, was made Counsel. George W. Phillips of Salem, Mass., a graduate of Harvard, a man of high mathematical attainments, was offered the position of Actuary, which he accepted, and which office he filled until his death, on Sept. 27, 1898.
Although Mr. Hyde had conceived the project of organizing the society and was the chief mover of the enterprise, he decided that he would accept the position of Vice President, and that the office of President should be filled by the appointment of an older man---one whose name and reputation would insure the fullest public confidence in the young enterprise. The Hon. William C. Alexander of New Jersey, son of the Rev. Dr. Archibald Alexander of Princeton, a man of mature years ands long experience at the bar and in the Senate of New Jersey, accepted the position.
The first meeting of the incorporators of the society was held at the office of the Resolute Fire Insurance Company, 19 Nassau Street, (the room at 98 Broadway being too small,) on the afternoon of April 26, 1859. Twenty-two of the original Board of Directors were in attendance. Subsequent meetings were held at 19 Nassau Street until more roomy quarters were secured for the office of the society. It was decided that the business of the society should be conducted on the mutual plan for the exclusive benefit and advantage of its policy holders.
In the beginning the office force consisted of the President, Vice President, Actuary, Secretary, physician, and an office boy. An outside copyist was employed, but for a time there was no clerical force. The books were kept by the Actuary, who also attended to the general correspondence. The management of the business and the appointment of agents devolved upon Mr. Hyde.
MR. HYDE AT TWENTY-FIVE.
One of Mr. Hyde's most noticeable characteristics has been his antipathy to biographical notices. It is probable that there is not another man in the United States of equal prominence about whose life and personal history as little has appeared in print. Consequently the records of his early life are meager and uninteresting. His history is really the history of the Equitable Society, and whenever he was asked for information about himself for publication he turned the conversation to the achievements of the society and to its future prospects. He liked to see the name of the company in large type, but he always insisted that his own name should be printed in small type of precisely the same size as that of every one of his junior associates.
He was twenty-five years of age when the society was organized. He was described at that time as "tall in stature and strong of limb. Handsome in feature and singularly bright in expression. His mouth was peculiarly expressive, but his eyes, which were dark, and gleamed from beneath heavy eyebrows, arrested instant attention. They were keen, alert, and it is scarcely a figure of speech to say that they pierced like a sword. The young man impressed his individuality upon the world around him, and the charm to persuade men, which is the precursor of the power to direct them, already asserted itself in his daily walk and conversation.
He did not marry until five years later, and all his waking hours were devoted to the young enterprise. The society was launched with business amounting to nearly half a million dollars. Even before the completion of its organization, applications for $433,000 of assurance were secured from friends of the new enterprise, chiefly through the personal efforts of Mr. Hyde.
The utmost care was exercised in the selection of risks, and this, as well as every other department of the business, received Mr. Hyde's constant scrutiny. A long interval elapsed before the society was called upon to pay its first death claim. The strictest economy was exercised. No obligation was incurred, and no bill was paid except with Mr. Hyde's approval.
No sooner had the society been fairly launched than the civil war broke out, and a steady hand was needed at the helm during those stormy times. During the period of inflation following the war, new dangers presented themselves, Many life companies were organized, whose competition was active and whose methods were aggressive, but after a brief period of prosperity most of them went by the board in consequence of the inexperience of the officials, the lavish scale on which they were inaugurated, and the loose and extravagant manner in which their affairs were conducted.
THE FIRST DAY'S BUSINESS.
The Equitable Society opened its doors to the public on July 28. On that day fourteen policies were written, amounting in the aggregate to $100,500. The largest risk assumed on a single life at the start was for $10,000, but for a time one half of every risk for that amount was reassured in some older company. On the 1st of December the society moved into commodious offices on the first floor of a new building which had just been erected at 92 Broadway.
At the close of the year 1859 the society made its first report to the Insurance Department of the State of New York. At that time the assurance in force amounted to $1,144,000. On the 31st of December, 1898, it amounted to $987,000,000. Then the income was less than $24,000, now it amounts to over $50,000,000. Then not a single death claim had been presented. Since then the total amount paid to policy holders in death claims, matured endowments, dividends, surrender values, etc., exceeds $299,000,000.
The surplus at that time amounted to $96,154, and at that time there were twenty-four other older companies reporting to the New York and Massachusetts departments. In 1875 there were only five companies having a larger surplus than the Equitable; in 1876 there were but three; in 1877 but two; in 1878 but one; and in 1880 the society attained the first position, which it has held uninterruptedly ever since.
On March 29, 1864, Mr. Hyde married Annie Fitch, daughter of Simeon Fitch. His son, James H. Hyde, born Aug. 20, 1871, was graduated from Harvard in the class of 1898, and on the 2nd of November elected by the Board of Directors to the office of second Vice President of the Society.
In December, 1861, the society began to accept risks for $10,000 without re-assuring any part of that amount in other companies. In December, 1866, it extended the limit to $25,000; in December 1868, to $50,000; and in December 1883, to $100,000, and at the present time risks are assumed on selected lives for the amount of $200,000.
INNOVATION IN THE BUILDING.
From time to time, as the volume of the society's business extended, the offices were necessarily enlarged, and on Dec. 16, 1865, a special meeting of the Board of Directors was called to consider the question of erecting a building. That Mr. Hyde should have been willing to advise this step at a time when the assets amounted to only $1,500,000 and the income to only $971,000 illustrates the confidence with which he looked forward to the future growth and prosperity of the society.
The purchase of land upon which the original Equitable Building was erected, on the southwest corner of Broadway and Cedar Street, was consummated in the Autumn of 1867. The building was completed on the 1st of May, 1870. At that time there was not a single office building in New York into which passenger elevators had been introduced. For some time freight elevators had been utilized in warehouses and passenger elevators in hotels, but Mr. Hyde insisted upon their introduction into the Equitable Building, against the advice of the Society's Building Committee.
This innovation, which originated with Mr. Hyde, not only gave a unique prominence and efficiency to the Equitable Building, but revolutionized the construction of office buildings throughout the city. From time to time since then the building of the society has been enlarged, until now it practically occupies the entire block bounded by Broadway, Cedar Street, Nassau Street, and Pine Street.
To the superficial observer, Mr Hyde's energy, enterprise, diligence, capacity for hard and uninterrupted work, have been chiefly conspicuous, but those who have looked beneath the surface have seen that he was no less remarkable for care, thoughtful deliberation, vigilance, and an undeviated adherence to sound business and exact scientific principles.
The Equitable Society has been noted for the many reforms in the practice of life assurance which it has originated and put in practice. Here again Mr. Hyde's character is revealed. Many of the society's innovations were at first regarded by others in the business as rash and experimental, but experience has proved that they were all carefully considered in advance, and their merit having been subsequently demonstrated, the other companies have followed where Mr. Hyde has led.
ACTION IN THE DWIGHT CASE.
In the very beginning he saw that notable success could not be expected for any life assurance company unless the interests of the agents, who are the producers, should be jealously protected. Many innovations in this direction were made by Mr. Hyde, and early in its history the Equitable began to be called "the agent's company." During its earlier years many of the society's chief competitors were "note companies," transacting their business to a large extent on the credit system. Mr. Hyde, in spite of the keen competition of these older companies, refused to accept premium notes, and insisted from the beginning that the business of the society should be conducted throughout on a cash basis.
Early in the history of the society he observed that the practice of contesting the payment of claims was an increasing evil in the business, and he promptly set to work to simplify and liberalize the policy contract. Many innovations along these lines were introduced from time to time, until a system was perfected under which it became practicable to pay the policies of the society with a promptness, regularity, and certainty closely corresponding with that employed by a bank in the payment of its checks and drafts.
One of his most notable strokes of policy occurred some years ago. Col. Walton B. Dwight, well known in the interior of the State, died, leaving policies of insurance on his life in various companies, aggregating $256,000.
Most of the companies, believing that they had good reasons, contested the payment of these policies, President Hyde caused an independent investigation to be made of the claim on the Equitable, and becoming satisfied that it was entirely legitimate, ordered the payment of the $40,000 policy to Col. Dwight's estate. The case had attracted wide attention, and the news of the prompt payment by the Equitable Society was naturally published and talked of far and wide to the substantial advantage of the company's business.
GREAT CAPACITY FOR WORK.
Blessed with a rugged constitution and great physical strength, and such endurance as few men can boast, Mr. Hyde has worked with an energy few men have ever approached. During the early years of the society he thought nothing of taking a tour of the United States, working all day long, and every day, and traveling every night. Not only was he able to compress more work into a single day than any other man of ordinary energy, but he had the faculty of getting more work out of other people than any man of his time.
His mind worked with great rapidity. He transacted his business with marvelous dispatch, and by a sort of intuition was able to get at the root of a complicated matter without the necessity for a laborious study of the details. On the other hand, although quick to act and bold in action, it had always been his habit to concentrate his thoughts for long periods on single problems before he began to deal with them.
Having once made up his mind, he was fearless, confident, and aggressive. Nothing was too small or unimportant for his most undivided attention if it related in any way to any transaction of moment. He had an exceedingly terse and forcible literary style, and always insisted that not only the most important publications of the society, but every advertisement and every letter should be accurate, carefully expressed, and dignified in tone.
Those who have only seen him during business hours, and outside of business hours at times when he felt that the responsibility of the management of the society rested on his shoulders, cannot know the charm and attractiveness of the man. To know this phase of his character it was necessary to travel with him on those rare occasions when, having temporarily resigned the reins of government to his associates, he cut himself loose from all business associations and went far afield for rest and recreation.
Mr. Hyde was a man of genius, but he professed to have great contempt for the word, protesting that genius was simply the capacity for hard work. The secret of his success was that he had both the genius and the capacity for hard work. To attain a desired result he was always ready to expend the greatest amount of energy that could be brought to bear to insure success. He boasted that he made it a rule to apply one hundred pounds of power to make assurance doubly sure when possibly ten pounds might have sufficed to do the work.
ZEALOUS CARE FOR SOCIETY.
On Aug. 23, 1874, William C. Alexander, the first President of the society, died, and at a special meeting of the Board of Directors held on Sept. 2, 1874, Mr. Hyde was elected President and James W. Alexander, who had entered the service of the society as Secretary in 1866, was elected First Vice President. Having grown up with the society, Mr. Hyde remained in touch with all the departments of the business. A large proportion of the assurance secured in the beginning was obtained through his personal solicitation, and for many years thereafter, when some agent found it difficult to secure a large application, Mr. Hyde made it a practice to go with him and close the transaction.
For many years he appointed most of the agents who solicited for the society. He scrutinized written reports from every department of the office from day to day. It was his constant practice to thoroughly investigate from time to time one or another department of the business, going into all its details, having presented to him for judgment its current transactions, reviewing its methods, watching the work done by its clerks, and scrutinizing minutely the management of the official in charge of it.
Never, except for short intervals or under extraordinary circumstances, when the responsibility was delegated to others, did he fail to scrutinize every expenditure and personally check every bill submitted for payment. From day to day he scrutinized the amount of assurance written, the amount of assurance in force as compared with the business of the previous year, the amount of business terminated, the number and amount of the death claims reported, the mortality among the policy holders as compared with previous years and as compared with the expectation tables. For many years the most important canvassing documents of the society were written by him, and they were always prepared under his supervision.
CIRCULAR LETTERS TO AGENTS.
He took great delight in visiting the agencies of the society and instructing and encouraging the workers in the field. He originated the system of sending circular letters periodically to agents, informing them of the position attained by the society and stimulating them to renewed efforts. Most of these circulars were written by his own hand and were frequently the outcome of long thought and arduous labor.
He made a constant study of tables and percentages and comparisons illustrating the growth of the business and the experience of the society and its progress as compared with its competitors throughout the world. The finances of the society, the investment of its funds, the development and protection of its property, were constantly watched by him with the keenest solicitude.
Mr. Hyde conceived the idea of the Lawyers' Club, with its sumptuous quarters and manifold advantages in the Equitable Building. He was a member of the Lawyers' Club, and also of the Union, the Union League, the Riding, Westminster Kennel, South Side Sportmens', Jekyl Island, and Press Clubs. He also belonged to the American Geographical Society, and was a liberal patron of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Mr. Hyde never took any conspicuous part in public affairs, but he usually had very decided opinions on matters of importance. He was, as a rule, conservative in his ideas, and when the question of underground rapid transit came up he took a stand of emphatic opposition to it.
"Nothing is more significant of Mr. Hyde's character, which has always combined aggressiveness with conservatism," said a friend, "than the growth of the Equitable Society. No other life assurance company, indeed no other financial, has accomplished such results within so short a period, but the substantial character of its growth and its steady increase in strength has been, if anything, more significant than the rapidity of its advancement."
THE OFFICERS OF THE SOCIETY.
James W. Alexander, a Graduate of Princeton, Has Repeatedly Served as Acting President.
In less than three months the Equitable Life Assurance Society will be forty years of age. Notwithstanding its phenomenal growth, its advancement has been uniform and gradual. As the business has been extended, the system and machinery for conducting it have been developed, improved, and perfected. Its affairs are in charge of a board of fifty-two Directors and a corps of experienced officers. The business is divided into departments with a Superintendent at the head of each, who is held responsible for the efficient working of his department and the clerks under him.
During Mr. Hyde's illness and absence from the office, covering a period of more than a year, James W. Alexander, the Vice President, has had full charge, and the responsibility in conducting the affairs of the society. Repeatedly in the past he has served as Acting President of the society. In 1878, in consequence of ill-health, Mr. Hyde took a trip around the world, and was absent for nearly a year. During that absence the supreme control was placed in the Vice President's hands.
James W. Alexander is a graduate of Princeton University, and is one of the Trustees of that institution. After leaving college he studied law and was admitted to the bar in New York, becoming a partner in the firm of Cumming, Alexander & Green. In 1866 he abandoned the active practice of law to become Secretary of the Equitable Society. He was made Second Vice President in 1871, and has served continuously as First Vice President since 1874.
The Chief Medical Director of the Equitable, Dr. Edward W. Lambert, has been connected with the society from its organization, in 1859. George W. Phillips, the first Actuary, died in 1896, and Mr. J.G. Van Cise, who had been Assistant Actuary since 1873, was appointed to his place, R.G. Hann receiving the appointment of Assistant Actuary.
In 1898, James H. Hyde, son of President Hyde, a graduate of Harvard University, trained by his father in the theory and practice of life assurance, was made Second Vice President of the society.
The Third Vice President, Gage E. Tarbell, and Fourth Vice President, George T. Wilson, both men of long experience in the business, have full charge of the agencies of the society at home and abroad.
The Board of Directors is divided into committees which supervise the various departments of the society. The Finance and the Executive Committees have full charge of the investment of its funds and all matters relating to finance.
GROWTH OF THE COMPANY.
Has Paid $299,083,188.97 to Policy Holders, and Now Holds $258,369,298.54 of Assets.
Some interesting facts and figures are given in a recent statement of the growth and present condition of the Equitable Life Assurance Society. During a period of thirty-nine and one-half years the society has paid $299,083,188.97 to its policy holders, and now holds $258,369,298.54 of assets, making the total amount paid and accumulated $557,452,487.51. This total is $267,600,000 more than any other insurance company has paid and accumulated within a corresponding period. Last year the society paid in dividends to its policy holders $3,059,744.86.
From the end of 1859 to the end of 1898 the society's assets increased from $117,102 to $258,369,299, and the surplus from $93,154 to $57,310,489. The assets at the end of 1869 were $10,510,824; at the end of 1879, $37,366,842, and at the end of 1889, $107,150,309. The surplus at the end of each of these three periods was $319,755, $5,550,395, and $22,821,074.
Out of 3,531 death claims received last year 2,541 were paid on the day proofs of death were received, 403 were paid within three days after receipt of proofs, and 541 were paid within sixty days, making nearly 99 per cent. of the whole paid within sixty days. The claims paid on the day proofs of death were received amounted to $9,447,517.55; the claims paid within three days to $1,550,320.94, and those paid within sixty days to $1,797,850.31. During 1898 the society declined over $30,000,000 of assurance applied for.
A condensed statement for the year 1898 shows the assets to be as follows:
Bonds and mortgages...$34,724,277.55
Real estate, including the Equitable Building and purchases under foreclosure of mortgages...$26,063,423.53
United States stocks, State and city stocks, and other investments as per market quotations Dec. 31, 1898, (market value over cost, $11,478,910.73)...$157,207,562.55
Loans secured by bonds and stocks...$11,431,535.55
Real estate outside the State of New York, including purchases under foreclosure and office buildings...$14,346,910.11
Cash in banks at interest...$9,036,737.55
Balances due from agents...$252,786.50
Interest and rents due ($179,646.83) and accrued ($369,524.37)...$549,171.20
Premiums due and in process of collection....$2,549,079.00
The liabilities were:
Assurance fund (or reserve) on all existing policies...$198,898,259.60
All other liabilities...$2,160,550.27
The society's income from premium receipts was $39,371,421.59, and in cash received for interest and from other sources, $10,877,865.19, making a total of $50,249,286.78.
The disbursements were: Death claims, $12,982,474.76; matured and discontinued endowments, $1,374,732.37; annuities, $567,905.38; surrender values, $2,885,442.05; matured tontine values, $3,150,224; dividends paid to policy holders, $3,059,744.86; commissions, advertising, postage, and exchange, $4,558,406.67; all other payments---taxes, salaries, medical examinations, etc., $4,175,022.14, making the total disbursements $32,753,952.23.
The assurance was as follows---installment policies being stated at their commuted values. Outstanding assurance, $987,157,134; assurance applied for in 1898, $198,362,617; examined and declined, $30,318,878; new insurance issued, $168,043,739.
WARM TRIBUTES FROM FRIENDS.
Mr. McCall, Mr. McCurdy, and Mr. Hartley Talk of H.B. Hyde.
John A. McCall, President of the New York Life Insurance Company, when seen last night, had just received a telegram announcing the death of Mr. Hyde, and unhesitatingly added his tribute to the character and worth of the dead man. "Henry B. Hyde," he said, "was without doubt the most eminent insurance man in this or any country, and his death will be deeply felt by insurance men throughout the United States.
"As for myself, I owe much of whatever success I have achieved in life to his precepts and example. I was associated with him in the Equitable for a long time, and have known him intimately for twenty-five years. He has been one of the best friends I ever had. He helped me in every way possible, and I learned to recognize him almost as one of my own flesh and blood.
"As for his business attainments, he stood unchallenged as one of the greatest life insurance men in the business. He was a man of remarkable force and untiring energy, and showed himself peculiarly adapted to his chosen walk of life. And on those lines he was considered as peerless, not only in this country, but throughout Europe as well.
"His place, so far as I know, cannot possibly be filled at present. I cannot say more at this time, but the New York Life Insurance Company will take the earliest occasion to give public expression to the esteem in which we all held Henry B. Hyde.
Marcellus Hartley, one of the Directors of the Equitable Society and a lifelong friend and business associate of Mr. Hyde, did not know of Mr. Hyde's death until informed of the fact last night by a reporter for THE NEW YORK TIMES. "I was with him last night," said Mr. Hartley, "and did not believe that the end would come so soon. I have been associated with Henry Hyde for the past thirty-five years, and have been on nearly every one of his business committees.
"So many anecdotes connected with his remarkable business career crowd themselves into my memory now That I cannot undertake to give full expression to my reminiscences of the man. I think, however, that I give the main secret of the man's success in life when I say that whatever he took hold of he put unbounded energy into it and kept at it until he made it a success. Every business venture of his life was approached by him in this way, and he simply refused to be defeated. His loss will be keenly felt in life insurance circles, not only in this country, but throughout the world."
Richard A. McCurdy, President of the Mutual Life Insurance Company, said: "I am deeply grieved over Mr. Hyde's death. He was undoubtedly the most conspicuous figure in the business or profession of life insurance in this country during the last twenty years. I had the greatest respect and admiration, and a warm friendship for him for many years.
"While his health was not unexpected for some time past, it comes as a shock and takes away a man of note, a man who has left an impression upon the life insurance business, more so than that made by any other man ever connected with it."