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Guide to the Royal Indemnity Company Records of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire 1892-1987 (bulk 1901-1911)
SFH 16  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Processed by
  • Separated Materials
  • Related Materials
  • Company History
  • Scope and Contents
  • Arrangement

  • Title: Royal Indemnity Company records of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire
    Date (inclusive): 1890-1987
    Date (bulk): (bulk 1901-1911)
    Collection Identifier: SFH 16
    Creator: Royal & SunAlliance. Royal Indemnity Company.
    Physical Description: 1.0 carton, 2 flat boxes (3.25 cubic feet)
    Contributing Institution: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
    100 Larkin Street
    San Francisco, CA, 94102
    (415) 557-4567
    Abstract: Records from three insurance companies--London & Liverpool & Globe, Royal, and Queen Insurance Companies-- that did business during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire and eventually merged. Includes operational documents; technical, scientific, financial, and personal reports about the disaster; a scrapbook; publications; and photographs.
    Physical Location: The collection is housed onsite.
    Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English.


    The collection is open for research, with photographs available during Photo Desk hours. Please call the San Francisco History Center for hours and information at 415-557-4567.

    Publication rights

    All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the City Archivist.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Royal Indemnity Company Records of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire (SFH 16), San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

    Acquisition Information

    The Royal Indemnity Company Records of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire were transferred to the San Francisco Public Library from the Royal Indemnity Company in 2006.

    Processed by

    Kelly Sundin, March 27, 2007. Revised by Wendy Kramer in 2009.
    During processing, the entire collection was re-foldered and re-housed in acid-free folders and boxes. Some metal staples remain. Other documents on acidic paper were kept in their original state and separated with acid-free paper. The scrapbook was housed in an acid-free box.

    Separated Materials

    Photographs and negatives are housed with the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection. Also, many images are available online.
    Also removed and cataloged separately are two publications: the San Francisco Temporary Telephone Directory, May 12, 1906 (with a May 26, 1906 Supplement), and Wisdom for the Wise, a book of proverbs written by Lorenzo Sosso, illustrated with various pictures of San Francisco destruction after the earthquake and fire.

    Related Materials

    Researchers are encouraged to see also the San Francisco History Center’s vertical files, reference cards, and small manuscripts collections on the 1906 earthquake and fire; as well as biographical files and cards for individuals. Researchers should also check the catalog holdings of the San Francisco Public Library for related materials.

    Company History

    The Royal Indemnity Company is a subsidiary of Royal & SunAlliance Insurance Group plc (RSA), which is one of the largest insurance companies based in the United Kingdom.
    RSA did business in San Francisco as several companies that would subsequently merge or be acquired into the present RSA Group, of which the most important for this collection are the London & Liverpool & Globe Insurance Company, the associated Royal and Queen Insurance Companies and the London & Lancashire Fire Insurance Company of Liverpool (L&L).
    The Liverpool & London Insurance Company began United States operations in 1848, and opened San Francisco offices in 1853, making them the first foreign insurers to serve California. An 1864 merger with the Globe Insurance Company formed the Liverpool & London & Globe Insurance Company (LLG).
    The Royal Insurance Company (Royal) began U.S. operations in 1851, and in 1891 the Queen Insurance Company of Liverpool merged with Royal, and the newly organized Queen Insurance Company of America did business as a separate, but associated, company in the United States.
    The combined interests of these four companies would make the future RSA a major underwriter in the West from their establishment through the turn of the 20th century, and specifically at the time of the 1906 earthquake and fire.
    The San Francisco earthquake and fire stands as one of the most significant natural disasters in United States history, but is also incredibly important in insurance history. After the disaster, many insurance companies could or would not pay claims in full for a variety of reasons-– many companies suffered grave local losses themselves, some were financially unprepared to cover the policies they had written, and still others engaged in unethical business practices.
    This collection has a special focus in documenting the practices of insurance companies after the disaster, and specifically highlights the fair practices of LLG, Royal and Queen, who were lauded by the media and their industry as three of only five insurance companies that always paid their adjusted insurance claims in full, without discount.
    In 1919 Royal acquired LLG and formed the Royal-Globe Insurance Companies, and in 1961 Royal-Globe acquired L&L, two of many mergers resulting in various name changes until the present day. As this collection focuses primarily on the 1906 earthquake and its effects on the insurance industry, the subsequent history of RSA will not be discussed.
    Other companies (former and current RSA affiliates and subsidiaries, as well as unaffiliated non-RSA companies) of note in these records include: Newark Mutual Fire Assurance Company, Capital Fire Insurance Company, American & Foreign Insurance Company, Safeguard Insurance Company, Globe Indemnity Company, and Royal Life Insurance Company.

    Scope and Contents

    This collection documents the insurance history of the 1906 earthquake and fire, though it is a small and incomplete collection focusing primarily on the experience of only three companies doing business at the time: the London & Liverpool & Globe Insurance Company, and the associated Royal and Queen Insurance Companies.
    The collection includes some of the relevant operational documents of the companies (correspondence, ledgers pertaining to claims, minutes, rebuilding of company offices); various technical, scientific, financial, and personal reports about the disaster; a large scrapbook of newspaper articles, mostly from 1906-1908, pertaining to insurance practices (and public reactions and financial and legal repercussions thereof); sundry historical publications about the companies; as well as various publications and documents of interest to (or about) the manager of the Royal and Queen Insurance Companies, Rolla V. Watt.
    Particularly interesting are the graphic representations of the rebuilt Royal Insurance Company building at 201 Sansome Street, including internal and external photographs depicting before, during and after construction images; an advertising brochure for tenants; and a vanity publication showcasing the reconstructed building.
    The collection also provides a fascinating practical insight into the cultural and psychological context of post-1906 San Francisco-– determined optimism and an effort toward order during a period rife with desperation and chaos. This is an intimate view into the heart of a business that is not allowed to falter even under the most extreme conditions.


    Organized into six series: Series 1: Operational documents; Series 2: Correspondence; Series 3: Reports; Series 4: Publications; Series 5: Scrapbook; Series 6: Photographs. Series are arranged chronologically, unless otherwise noted in the finding aid.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Liverpool and London and Globe Insurance Company. -- Archives
    Queen Insurance Company of America. -- Archives
    Royal & SunAlliance. Royal Indemnity Company. -- Archives
    Royal Insurance Company Building (San Francisco, Calif.)
    Royal Insurance Company. -- Archives
    Earthquake insurance--California--San Francisco.
    Insurance companies, British--California--San Francisco.
    San Francisco (Calif.)--Earthquake and fire, 1906.