General George Custer's Life Insurance Policy

 

Like any good provider, General George Armstrong Custer provided a life insurance policy to provide his spouse with an income in case he met an untimely death. The policy was written by Mr. I. F. A. Studdart of St. Paul Minnesota, an insurance agent for New York Life Insurance Company.

 

General Custer's $5,000.00 policy was written on June 4, 1874 at the age of 34. General Custer's policy premium was $25.56 per thousand, or $127.80 annually. There was an extra premium of 5% charged for war risk, due to General Custer being stationed at Fort Abraham Lincoln in the Dakota Territory (present day North Dakota). Libbie Custer, the General’s spouse, was the only beneficiary listed. Many modern life insurance policies contain a "war clause", voiding the policy if the insured dies as the result of an act of war. Two years and 21 days after it’s signing, General George Armstrong Custer’s death at the Little Big Horn in battle against the Plains Indians, triggered the policy.

New York Life must keep extremely good records because they still have the document. The document has a logo of an engraving that still hangs in New York Life's headquarters. The engraving depicts a mother eagle feeding her chicks in a nest. The engraving was New York Life's first logo and was used at least as early as 1860.

Even though General Custer’s policy was for $5,000.00, the check made out to his spouse was for $4,750.00. It is thought the missing $250.00 made up for a loan against his policy. The $5,000.00 policy would be worth about $500,000.00 today. Libbie Custer and five other Officer’s wives did not take money raised in a national campaign to support the wives widowed at the Battle of The Little Bighorn. They felt that doing so would provide more money for the other wives and families.

I was contacted recently by a reader about the material here pertaining to New York Life. I had content posted, telling of a very bad experience involving an insurance company I identified as New York Life. I made an error in relating the experience. New York Life was not my insurance company, it was Met Life. I greatly regret the error and apologize profusely to NYL and their employees.

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