The Journal of Economic History


Marine Insurance in Philadelphia During the Quasi-War with France, 1795–1801

Christopher Kingstona1

a1 Associate Professor, Department of Economics, Amherst College, 314 Converse Hall, Amherst, MA 01002. E-mail:


Until the 1790s marine insurance in the United States was organized by brokers and underwritten by private individuals. Beginning in 1792, however, the private underwriters had to compete with newly formed marine insurance corporations. Each organizational form had advantages and disadvantages. This article uses archival data from a private underwriter and a corporation to study how the competition between these different organizational forms was affected by a powerful exogenous shock which substantially increased the risks to American merchant shipping in the late 1790s: the “Quasi-War” between the United States and France.

I thank ACE Group and the ACE Group corporate archivist, Joan Lowe, for access to the INA archive; and Price Fishback, Gillian Hadfield, Daniel Klerman, Walter Nicholson, Robert Wright, two anonymous referees, and seminar participants at Union College, Wesleyan University, the Insurance and Society Group, BHC, ISNIE, the NBER Summer Institute, Georgia State University, George Mason University, and the Center in Law, Economics, and Organization at USC for helpful comments and discussions. Anoop Menon provided excellent research assistance.