Mutual Assurance Society Records

The "Mutual Assurance Society, against Fire on Buildings, of the State of Virginia" was incorporated by the General Assembly on December 22, 1794. The plan of the society was suggested by William Frederick Ast, a Prussian then residing in Richmond, and is alleged to have been modeled after a system of mutual guarantee introduced by Frederick the Great.

Insurance offered by the society was against "all losses and damages occasioned accidentally by fire." Rates of hazard were determined by the material composition of the buildings, by the uses to which the buildings were put, and by what may be kept in them. Mills, playhouses, liveries, and buildings containing machinery propelled by steam or in which combustible articles were stored could be insured only by special contract. Revaluations of insured property were required every seven years or whenever additions were made to a policy.

These records serve a variety of research purposes and are often useful to those interested in family history, local history, architectural history, and business history. Declarations show ownership or occupancy in a particular place. Building diagrams shed light on the policyholder’s neighborhood, economic status,
and circumstances, along with the list of insured structures and the information about their composition and size.

Learn more about these records with the following guides.

Guides and Indexes

A Guide to the Mutual Assurance Society of Virginia General Business Records, 1795-1965, Accession Number 28135 is available through the Virginia Heritage Project.

Mutual Assurance Society Records is a research note that provides insight into the records and their many research uses.

Mutual Assurance Society Policies for Richmond City and Henrico County, 1796–1867 are available via our online catalog.

Additional Resources

An index to the Mutual Assurance Society Declarations and Revaluations of Assurance, 1796-1867 (accession 30177) is available in a database created and maintained by the Center for Historic Preservation at the University of Mary Washington College. This index is also available on microfilm at the Library of Virginia (accession 30790).

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