This chapter explores the tension that existed in the late nineteenth century between life insurers’ efforts to class individuals into groups and their urge to smooth or average away individual difference. It focuses on the story of Thomas Scott Lambert and his company, American Popular Life, which emphasized the importance of medical classing over actuarial smoothing. The chapter explains Lambert’s business model, built around a medical analog to phrenology that he called biometry, and details the company’s collapse during the Panic of 1873 alongside many of its more conventional peers. It also considers how companies that survived the panic, including Mutual Life of New York and Metropolitan, decided to expand the reach of their companies and thus commodified and quantified many more Americans’ lives. Lambert’s trial for perjury frames the story.
Chicago Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.
If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.
To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.