Samuel M. Donnell insurance records for Newark, Delaware

Biographical and Historical Notes

Samuel Mathewson (S.M.) Donnell was a realtor, insurance agent, and notary in the small college town of Newark, Delaware, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The registers comprising this small collection indicate that S.M. Donnell sold insurance policies in Newark, Delaware, on behalf of two companies, the Fire Association of Philadelphia and the Royal Insurance Company of Liverpool, between 1888 and 1914. Donnell had a keen interest in his community, and served it through political and social activities. In 1882 he was the warden master for the Mason's Hiram Lodge, No.25, A.F.A.M. Donnell became president of Newark town council in 1885 and was a member of that same body in 1887.

S. M. Donnell owned many properties in the city of Newark. Some of his land holdings, dating from 1909 to 1935, can be found in the Wilbur T. Wilson Map Collection. His real estate holdings included a farm near Main Street and New London Road. A Royal Insurance Company policy (Volume 1) described the farm as a "stable, wood house, corn crib and contents, dwelling, water closet, and poultry house."

Donnell was the son of Andrew and Rosa (Mathewson) Donnell. He married Mary Bedford, who was the daughter of Levi G. Cooch and Sarah Conant Wilkins.


Historical and biographical information derived from the collection.

Cooch, Frances A. Little Known History of Newark, Delaware and its Environs. Newark, Del.: The Press of Kells, 1936.

Scharf, J. Thomas. History of Delaware: 1609-1888, Vol. 2. Philadelphia: L.J. Richards & Co., 1888.

Hanby, Egbert G. and Jas. L. Vallandigham, Jr. Newark, Delaware: Past and Present. Newark, Del.: Delaware Ledger Print, 1982.

Philadelphia Business Directory, 1899-1900.

R.L. Polk & Co.s Peninsula Directory of Delaware Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia, 1908-1909.

Bell Telephone Co., April 1, 1897.

MSS 0377, Wilbur T. Wilson map collection

Scope and Contents

The Samuel M. Donnell Insurance Records for Newark, Delaware, spans the dates of 1888-1914, and provides a wealth of information about property holders and building structures in the town around the turn of the century. The Insurance Records will be particularly useful in conjunction with the Wilbur T. Wilson Map Collection (Ms 377). The collection consists of nine volumes, which were related to Donnell's job as agent for two insurance companies: Fire Association of Philadelphia (407-409 Walnut Street) and Royal Insurance Company of Liverpool, England (306 Walnut Street, Philadelphia). The Fire Association of Philadelphia was incorporated on March 27, 1820. The Royal Insurance Company of Liverpool was founded in the midnineteenth century in Liverpool, England.

The nine-volume registers are divided into two series. Series I, spanning the dates 1897-1911, includes three volumes of insurance records (one for the Fire Association of Philadelphia and two for the Royal Insurance Company of Liverpool) that include policies and descriptive information about the people, places, fees, and dates of transactions. Series II, spanning the dates 1888-1914, is a six-volume set of S.M. Donnell's check registers for his insurance business. Each of the nine volumes is housed individually.

The registers were printed for the insurance company's agents to record details of their clients' premiums. Two clients are listed per double-page spread. The Royal Insurance Company's register was printed by Hofstetter Bros. Blank Book Manufacturers of Philadelphia. The second volume of this set has a letter to its agents tipped into the verso of the cover. It is laid on top of the label of the manufacturer of the register.

The two volumes of registers for the Fire Association of Philadelphia include the following information: company logo, policy number, name of assured, commencement of risk, term, expiration of risk, amount insured, old rate, new rate, premium, copy of policy, and remarks. Across the top of the page, beginning on the left side, are the words: Policy Register. On the right side is the company's name.

Donnell filled each register with descriptive materials, receipts, and signed policies that are tipped into the pages along with the line items and monetary notations. The records have the names of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Newark residents; each register has an index. Donnell's clients included local businesses, Delaware College, and the local school district.

The six volumes of check registers, some of which have his initials on the spine, span the dates 1888-1914. The collection consists of volumes two, five, six, eight, nine, and fourteen of an unknown number of the set.