Franklin Life Insurance Co.

Franklin Life Insurance Co.'s 1913 headquarters building, left; part of the 1964 Seventh Street Addition can be seen on the far right, along with the complex's iconic statue of Benjamin Franklin, whom the company styled the Apostle of Thrift. (SCHS photo)

Franklin Life Insurance Co.’s 1913 headquarters building, left; part of the 1964 Seventh Street Addition can be seen on the far right, along with the complex’s iconic statue of Benjamin Franklin, whom the company styled the Apostle of Thrift. (SCHS photo)

Founded in 1884, the Franklin Life Insurance Co. remained an important force in Springfield’s economy into the 21st century.

Franklin Life was founded  by a half-dozen central Illinois residents in 1884. They pledged to offer up to $3,000 in insurance to “all male persons who can pass a proper medical examination, between the ages of twenty-one and fifty-five.” Payouts were to be made by assessments on members. Henson Robinson was the first president.

The company continued steady but unspectacular growth over the next 50 years, reaching $100 million of insurance in force in 1920 under president George B. Stadden. However, when Charles E. Becker, a Texas insurance entrepreneur, took ownership in 1939, Franklin’s business began a rapid upswing.

Franklin lightFranklin Life had completed an imposing new headquarters at Sixth Street and Lawrence Avenue in 1913.  The Becker regime led to more expansion; major office buildings were completed in 1949 and then in 1964. The company also developed a Modernist apartment building intended partly for use by its executives, The Town House at 718 S. Seventh St.  (It is now condominiums.) Even the lightposts around the headquarters complex denoted it Franklin Square (and still did as of 2013).

The company also was one of the first private firms to adopt early computer technology. Franklin Life received the 15th Univac computer ever built.

Becker was succeeded as president by his close associate (and acquaintance from high school), Francis Budinger, in 1961 and then by George Hatmaker (1910-2003) in 1964. William Alley (1929-1996) became CEO in 1976. (Both Becker and Budinger were named Springfield First Citizens, Becker in 1965 and Budinger 10 years later.)

The Franklin lost its independence when it was purchased by American Brands in 1979. Consolidations continued — American General bought The Franklin for $1.2 billion in 1995, and the company became part of insurance giant AIG in 2001.

Employment dropped from 1,300 in 1991 to about 400 in 2008, when the company moved out of its signature headquarters. The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce listed American General as having 410 employees in Springfield in November 2012, which still left the company ranked as the city’s eighth-largest private employer.

The former Franklin complex was purchased by the state of Illinois and converted to headquarters for the Illinois State Police.

More information: “The Fabulous Franklin Story,” Francis O’Brien, 1970 (available at Lincoln Library, Springfield)bridge

Original content copyright Sangamon County Historical Society. You are free to republish this content as long as credit is given to the Society.

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39 Responses to Franklin Life Insurance Co.

  1. Jill Cloutier says:

    Please tell me how I can contact someone from TheFranklin Life Insurance Co. Thank you.
    Jill Cloutier

    • editor says:

      Ms. Cloutier: The Franklin has been merged, acquired, and divested several times over the years. I believe it’s still owned by AIG, whose web site lists a phone number for Franklin inquiries at 1-800-231-3655. Good luck.

    • My parents purchased individual policies for me, my siblings, and themselves in the late 1970s. The company was sold in the 80s i believe. I’m trying to track down company name snd how to redeem the value of the policy. Please help me!

      • editor says:

        Mr. Gaddy: Your question has been answered by another commenter, Lonny Dunn. Look below for older comments. You’ll see his advice. Good luck.

  2. Pat Shaw says:

    Could you please name the seven Sangamon County residents in 1884 founders for me. I had cousins that worked there in 1890 to 1901 or 1902. One Robert C Roseberry as a supr. and his brother Thomas C Roseberry was an attorney but both worked for Franklin Life Assoc. and are listed in the city directory for a few years.
    Thank you

    • editor says:

      Ms. Shaw: The number seven comes from The Fabulous Franklin Story, which I had checked out of the library and long since returned. The problem is that old newspaper files, to which I do have immediate access, indicate the actual number of organizers apparently was either six or nine, and not all were from Sangamon County.

      The list of officers when the company was “permanently” organized in July 1884 were: Henson Robinson, E.S. Johnson, A.D. Sanders, Dr. B.M. Griffith and R.L. McGuire, all of Springfield, and H.D. Day of Moweaqua. A list of organizers published that March also included the names of John Oberly of Bloomington, James Miller of Caseyville and H.C. Feltman of Salem.

      Hope this helps you, though it just confuses me. I’ll get hold of The Fabulous Franklin Story again to doublecheck its list.

      Thanks for reading.

      • editor says:

        Ms. Shaw: Here’s an update. After doing some more research in Illinois State Journal files, it’s even clearer that the organizers of Franklin Life, however many they were, were not all from Sangamon County. I’ve made that sentence a lot more general in the main entry.

        Regarding your cousins, they are first mentioned in a March 2, 1887, Journal story about a reorganization of both Franklin Life and the Springfield Mutual Life Association, in which Springfield Mutual disappears and Franklin Life becomes the sole entity. That story reports that T.C. Roseberry had been named the secretary of Franklin and a member of the board of directors. R.C. Roseberry was the company’s superintendent of agencies.

        T.C. is mentioned only one time in The Fabulous Franklin Story, on page 6 and then for only a paragraph, but I thought you’d find it interesting. (R.C. isn’t mentioned at all.)

        “A new and important actor to appear on the scene at this time was T.C. Roseberry, who in September 1886 was elected Secretary and General Manager. He was a distinct addition to the organization at that time. An insurance man of considerable experience, Mr. Roseberry began to surround himself with businessmen of the highest type in the community.”

        Both men remained with Franklin Life until 1901, by which time T.C. was vice president and R.C. secretary. However, they both retired at the end of 1901 and moved to California. As you probably know — but other readers may not — T.C. died in 1913 and R.C. in 1927. The Illinois State Register published a short obituary for T.C., but I found no mention of R.C.’s death in local papers. They are buried in the Los Angeles area.

        I’ll send you a separate email with a short profile of T.C. that was published by the Register in 1892.

        Once again, thanks for reading.

        • Pat Shaw says:

          Mike,
          Thank you so much for the information, I suspected as much but was not sure. They had some personal family deaths in the late 1800’s and found information in the city directory about them. They are sons of my gg-grandfather’s sister Mary Ann Stewart Roseberry. I knew from research about them moving to California, so the information you have given me is very helpful. Hope to find T C’s obit!
          Pat Shaw

  3. Mike Lutze says:

    I had the marvelous opportunity to be shown the UNIVAC system that was still in production at the time, including being allowed to enter the small passageway into the system to marvel at the glow of innumerable vacuum tubes. I believe this would have been in the late ’60s early ’70s.

    Does anyone know when the system was taken out of service and what became of it?

  4. wreyes786@HOTMAIL.ES says:

    I have one calendar this company
    Front 1955

  5. Ed LaPinskas says:

    I was an agent for Franklin Life ( 1981 – 86 ). Had an annuity and some term ins. Their products were competitive and rock solid. Too bad they got ‘gobbled up’ by the BAILOUT gang. Sadly, a part of Americana past, now. I don’t know if my son has the coin bank he was given on our trip to the old home office back in ’84. It was a bust of Ben himself.

    • editor says:

      Mr. LaPinskas: I think a lot of former Franklin employees, like you, have great memories of working there. Thanks for reading, and thanks very much for commenting.

  6. Randy Brice says:

    I was an agent with Franklin from 1974-1999. Great company, great people, and great memories.

  7. Vickie Storm says:

    I was employed by Franklin Life from 1980 to 2000. This company was an example, in many respects, of how a company becomes a family. We had a credit union, a cafeteria, a nurse on hand, doctors and lawyers with whom we could consult and many social events. We honored our sales associates. Employees worked hard, were loyal and stayed for many, many years. Family members worked at the company, partly because they were one of Springfield’s largest employers and partly because they were a great company. Bill Alley was an intelligent, personable, tough leader who went on to run American Brands. After being purchased by American General, Franklin Life executed the first lay-off of employees (about 10% of the workforce) after a 100+ year history. The culture that had been so carefully and lovingly cultivated for a century, began to change after that. There is so much history about Franklin Life – the details of the original building, the mission statement, the products, the way lives were changed for the better . . . but most of all, Franklin Life was the essence of the people who worked there. Thank you for your article.

    • editor says:

      Ms. Storm: Thanks for your thoughtful comment. This kind of dialogue is one of the things we hoped to inspire when we started SangamonLink.

    • Randy Brice says:

      Vickie’s statement sums it up, and I remember her as a great Home Office professional who was dedicated to The Franklin and the sales associates (I was one of them). It was a great association – Home Office & Sales Associates. Unfortunately, times change. But the memories remain.

  8. Dan Price says:

    I was an agent with Franklin. Great company.

  9. Edwina & Lisa McIntyre says:

    I am trying to research “National – Ben Franklin Life Insurance Corp. one of The Continental Insurance Companies” policy for my mother that my father had purchased. Is there a claims number or information number to start me in the right direction?

    Thank you
    Lisa McIntyre
    for Edwina McIntyre

    • editor says:

      Ms. McIntire: Unfortunately, National-Ben Franklin Life Insurance is a totally different company, unrelated to Springfield’s Franklin Life. (A lot of insurance companies once used a variation of the name “Franklin” because founding father Benjamin Franklin founded some insurance companies of his own.) National-Ben Franklin seems to have operated under that name from 1909 to 1983. It then became Commercial Life Insurance Co., which in turn merged into UNUM Life Insurance Co. of America.

      The Idaho Department of Insurance has some contact information on its web site:
      http://www.doi.idaho.gov/insurance/InsurerDetail.aspx?COA=919

      Your home state Department of Insurance probably can also put you in contact with UNUM.

      Good luck. Sorry we can’t be more help.

  10. richard s rubin says:

    I found an old life insurance policy taken out on me by my mother in 1954 issued ny Franklin life insurance company-policy 1274428-is there any value to this policy? It has a $1000 face value and it was issued june 10,1954

    • editor says:

      Richard: Thanks for reading. All we can do is direct you to a “Frequently Asked Questions” page maintained by the Illinois Department of Insurance. Here is the department’s answer to a question about determining the status of an old life insurance policy:

      “The Department of Insurance can tell you what happened to the original company. If, for example, it was purchased by another company, we can provide the name, address and phone number of the new company. If you are unable to determine if your policy has been assumed by the new company, contact our Department in writing or by e-mail. We will then contact the succeeding carrier to see if we can determine what happened to the policy.”

      In the case of Franklin Life, it was taken over by AIG in 2001. Your best bet is to ask the Department of Insurance how to contact AIG. Good luck.

  11. Lonny Dunn says:

    My father, Thomas S. Dunn was employed by FLICO from the late 60’s through the 80’s all of the fine calibre men and women who worked with him and for him had a great impact upon my character. He was an Executive Sales Director, first in New England, and then in the Deep South. The company was an old line insurer, with personalized service, and they had a system of recruiting agents with deep ties to the communities they served. For instance, in Vermont, Jack Durrett was President of Ducks Unlimited, Seab Hillis in Alabama eventually became a “Super Agent” with men employed across 6 states. The company focused it’s efforts on Cash Value policies, and long term savings, and financial stability.

    To those of you who hold Franklin Policies, I have read, and researched that the company which honors them is a spin off of AIG and they are in Houston.

    Mailing Address: P O Box 1591
    Houston TX 77251-1591
    Office Number: (713)831-3174
    Toll Free Number: (800)231-3655
    Fax Number: (713)831-4345

    Physical Address: 2727 Allen Pkwy Ste A
    Houston TX 77019-2116

  12. Michelle Walden says:

    My great grandfather was Charles Becker and my grandfather was Paul Becker..I am inquring on the roles in which they had in the Franklin Life Insurance Company…

    • editor says:

      Ms. Walden: I’m also replying to you via email. Here’s what I said there:

      This isn’t a simple request. There were at least two Charles Beckers, and there may have been more than one Paul as well. Here are the ones I can identify so far:

      — Charles Everett Becker: Took over Franklin Life in the 1940s and grew its business dramatically. Died in 1968.
      — Charles Fulton Becker: son of Charles E., worked at Franklin Life for more than 50 years, retiring in 1988 as senior vice president of finance. Died in 2003.
      — Norval Paul Becker (known as Paul, at least in Springfield): Brother of Charles E., was secretary of agencies for Franklin Life for some period in 1940s and ’50s. (He may have had other roles too; I can’t tell from my quick research.) Died in 1996.

      According to Findagrave.com, Charles E. had no children named Paul. So I’m guessing your great-grandfather was Charles Fulton and that he had a son named Paul. Do I have that right?

      I’m posting your request and my reply in the hopes that some of the former Franklin employees who read SangamonLink can help you.

      Otherwise, your best bet to find out more about the roles at Franklin of any of the Beckers is to get hold of a copy of “The Fabulous Franklin Story: the History of the Franklin Life Insurance Company 1884-1970,” by Francis O’Brien (1970).

      Good luck, and thanks for reading.

  13. Amanda says:

    I have found a 12k gold filled pen with this logo on it along with a pic of franklin. Can someone tell me about it?

  14. Sylvia Slayton says:

    I am doing research for a co-worker for a policy on The Franklin Life Insurance Co out of Springfield, Illinois. His wife’s ex-husband had the policy and she was named Beneficiary. The policy was issued on July 11, 1959 and the expiry date was July 11, 2000. the policy number: 1851526. He is trying to find out if it was ever cashed out or if it has any value to it to cash out. I have the original policy. Any help on how to find out would be greatly appreciated.
    thanks

    • editor says:

      Ms. Slayton: Please look about four comments below yours, where Lonny Dunn has researched exactly your question and provided contact information that should help you find the answers you need. Good luck.

  15. Joseph Uskert , Jr says:

    I would like to know about an insurance policy no 2147429 holder Joseph Uskert ,Jr.

    • editor says:

      Mr. Uskert: If you scroll up about a half-dozen comments, you’ll see one from Lonny Dunn that will point you in the right direction. Thanks for reading.

  16. Lorie Raschick says:

    My husband and I purchased a insurance in 1994 and the policy number is 5670608. How can I get information. The name on the policy is Anthony Raschick.

    • editor says:

      Ms. Raschick: A previous commenter, Lonny Dunn, provided information that should help. Take a look at his comment, which is about 10 comments above this one. Thanks for reading.

  17. Keating says:

    Do you know if Mr william Alley has a
    Family member in okla or Tx that is in
    the financial service business that is getting
    ready to Run for US congress or US sen
    Very honest no BS kind on Man . I suspect
    we will here more about this man . I didn’t
    know if this was the same relationship to
    William Alley . Some very strong power
    brokers from Texas and oklahoms

  18. Susan Graham says:

    Nobody can find our policy although we got a letter stating it had matured. Nice customer service. NOT

  19. Chris says:

    Can anybody tell me about a button the Franklin Life Insurance Co issued in 1972 that reads: “President’s Campaign / Oct. 30 / ’72 / Dec. 1 / Franklin Life Insurance Co.”

    Any help will be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

    • editor says:

      Chris: The button refers to an insurance sales incentive program. Franklin salesmen would have been eligible for various rewards for meeting specified sales targets during the “president’s campaign.” The dates presumably are the start and end of the incentive period. I couldn’t find anything specific about the Franklin’s 1972 president’s campaign (the search is complicated because the keywords keep turning up stories about President Nixon’s 1972 election campaign). But my guess is your button was one given out at a meeting held to rev up Franklin salesmen at the start of the campaign. Thanks for reading.

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