In the late 1880's an examining surgeon of the Travelers Insurance Company, Dr. Charles Stillman, wrote a book with the aim of the author “to present a concise, practical manual, which will enable even the beginner in life insurance examinations to conduct an examination satisfactorily to the company by whom he is employed – to the applicant and to himself – and it is intended to be a systematic and complete treatise upon the subject of life insurance examinations.”
The second part of the book, Examination of the Applicant, includes a section entitled “Environment” with a sub-heading of “Occupation” and states at the outset, “We append at the close of this paragraph a table showing a classification of the relative influence of the various occupations on the duration of life in general, but it must be the task of the Examiner to determine, in each individual case, how far the applicant’s particular employment is likely to prove prejudicial to longevity, in view of what is elicited by the insurance examination.” In addition Dr. Stillman notes, “In some occupations danger of accidents must be considered; in others, the general deleterious circumstances.”
As mentioned, Dr. Stillman’s treatise includes a table of “Classification of Risks According to Occupation.” The table places dozens of occupations into four classes of risks. As to certain trades the doctor notes: “Painters, using lead, turpentine and oils, require careful scrutiny before they can safely be admitted. For their case, outside work in the fresh air is preferable to indoor work, and the constitution and physical status must be sound. Workers in phosphorous and quicksilver present the same objections. Stone-cutters, millers, and those engaged in similar occupations, which necessitate constant breathing of air laden with irritating particles, are questionable risks, unless the applicant is exceptionally strong and careful, and his place of business is provided with improved methods of ventilation.”
The Appendix includes life insurance statistics from a treatise on the records of 30 American life insurance companies, which will be discussed in more detail in the next blog entry.