American Maritime Documents, 1776-1860 - Stein, Douglas L.
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Most often a printed document of one or more pages, varying in size and composition. It indicated the standard terms and securities, with blanks provided for conditions unique to a particular policy. Other information would include the name of the vessel insured and the master, a description of the cargo (if insured), the stated value of the insured, the term of the policy, the policy number, the premium, etc.
Marine insurance in colonial America was underwritten primarily by wealthy citizens who pledged to pay a portion of the vessel's or cargo's value if it was lost. The owner of a vessel contracted to compensate the underwriters at a specified rate for this protection. This contact was the Marine Insurance Policy. The first United States incorporated company for marine insurance was chartered in 1794, and several others were in business by the end of the century. During the early 1800s these companies suffered from European abuses of our neutral shipping and their losses were frequently severe. However, the business of marine insurance continued to grow and was firmly established by the mid-nineteenth century.
Marine Insurance Policies are often found in maritime collections. As research sources, these documents can provide information about the current values of ships and cargoes, as well as how various forces affected the safety of American shipping.