Custer's Insurance Policy



While reading some publications about General Custer, I ran across a short article that mentioned the insurance policies that had been written on Custer and five of his fellow officers. The policies were written by a Mr. I. F. A. Studdart of St. Paul Minnesota. Apparently Mr. Studdart was an insurance agent for New York Life Insurance Company, and covered the northern middle western states.

Custer's policy was written on June 4, 1874 at age 34, with his wife as beneficiary. The policy was for $5000.

Lt. James Calhoun's policy was written on 1 June 1874 at age 29, with his wife as beneficiary- $5000.

Capt. George Yates's policy was written on 19 July 1874 at age 33, with his wife as beneficiary- $5000.

Lt. John Crittenden's policy was written on May 12, 1876 at age 25, with his mother as the beneficiary- $10,000. he must have been single at the time and obviously wanted his mother to be well cared for if he had an untimely death.

Capt. Myles Keogh's policy was written on June 13, 1873 at age 31, with "himself" as the benefactor- $10,000. I seem to have read somewhere that Keogh's policy(and perhaps that of Crittenden) was perhaps of the same face value of the others with the exception of a double indemnity clause for accidental death. One can only guess that Keogh was having fun by listing himself as the beneficiary.

I would assume that New York Life statistics indicated that Army officers on the frontier were a good insurance risk. That these policies were all paid off, would suggest that the policies did not contain a "war clause," as many insurance policies do today. with the war clause, the policy is voided if the insured dies as the result of an act of war.

Addendum(5 May 96):

A brief note by Mr. Bruce R. Liddic in the LBHA Newletter, Vol. III No. 2b, Summer, 1969 sheds further light on the above. The Custer's premium for the policy was $25.56 per thousand, or $127.80 annyally. He states that there was an extra premium of 5% charged for war risk. If this added payment was not met by the holder's death, it was deducted from the value of the policy. This may be part of the reason that Mrs. Custer did not get all of the benefit. As I stated above, Capt. Keogh named himslef as the benficiary. In reality, he next named his friend Lt. Henry J. Nowland who received $1000 and his sister who was still in Ireland, who received $9000. This still does not answer the double indemnity question.

Addendum (June,1996) from M. Greene: As a member of New York Life, I can only tell you what I know through our own brochures. Though the policy on his life was for $5000, the check made out to his wife is clearly for $4750.00. We have surmised that there must have been a $250 loan against his policy. I don't know how it was then, but in modern times, that could have been by the policy holder's request for a cash loan, or an automatic loan if the premium wasn't paid. (You can only do that once a policy has built up cash value.)


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