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COLLECTION Identifier: Mss:797 1870-1919 E64

Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States records


Records of the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States, as well as papers relating to the personal activities of its founder, Henry Baldwin Hyde (1834-1899), and his son, James Hazen Hyde (1876-1959).


  • 1782-1919 (inclusive)
  • Majority of material found within 1869-1906


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials stored offsite; access requires advance notice. Contact for more information.


22 linear feet (66 volumes, 13 cases)

Principally correspondence, business and personal, of Henry B. Hyde and his son, James H. Hyde, vice-president of Equitable from 1899 to 1905. The loose material in this collection consists of 13.5 cu. ft. of files from 1782 to 1919, the bulk of which falls between 1870 and 1905. It includes extensive files on setting up and running a life insurance company across the country and around the world. The aspects covered are financial, medical, managerial and political. It also includes a substantial amount of material on safety deposit companies. In addition there is a good deal of information on the founding, outfitting, and running of proprietary and social clubs with much attention given to material detail. Of particular interest are the Jekyll Island Club, the Lawyers' Club, the Underwriters' Club, the Café Voisin (est. 1887) of Paris, the Café Saverin in New York (a proprietary club of the ELAS), and the French Club (le Cercle) at Harvard. Henry B. Hyde and ELAS invested in real estate and there is considerable information on the subject. Finally, both Henry B. Hyde and his son, James, took exceptional interest in outfitting their houses, consequently, the files are filled with detailed information on renovating and decorating. The collection also includes 66 volumes consisting of letter books, memos, and reports.

Letters from Lucy B. B. Hyde (Henry B. Hyde's sister) written to her father, Henry H. Hyde, in 1869 while she was living in New York City and studying drawing, reveal her independent nature, her dislike of materialism, and her ideas about spirituality. Lucy had traveled to Europe and in her letters tried to convince her father to travel abroad with her.

Letters from Annie Hyde to her husband, Henry B. Hyde, written while he was traveling around the world, describe her daily occupations, including visiting friends, museums, the theater, and church. She considered traveling to England to meet her husband but decided she did not want to leave her children, but also stated that she was "too timid, too much of a baby" to make the trip across the Atlantic alone.

Historical Note:

The Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States (ELAS) was founded in 1859 by Henry Baldwin Hyde (1834-1899). It became, by the year of Hyde’s death, the largest life insurance company in the world. Hyde sought to guarantee that his son, James Hazen Hyde (1876-1959), would continue family control of the company after his death, but in 1905 the younger Hyde lost control in a struggle which resulted from an investigation of the insurance industry by New York State.

Series Outline

The collection is arranged into six series: Series I. Hyde family correspondence, 1861-1919, Series II. General correspondence, 1789-1904 (inclusive), 1869-1904 (bulk), Series III. Equitable Life Assurance Society of the Unites States branch files, 1875-1904, Series IV. Administrative files, 1875-1917, Series V. Letterbooks and other bound volumes, 1870-1906, and Series VI. Hyde Stamp Collection, 1894-1897.

Physical Location


Processing Information

Preservation and description of 18th century materials in the collection were supported by the Colonial North American Project at Harvard University.

Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States. Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States records, 1782-1919 (inclusive), 1869-1906 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Baker Library
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Baker Library Special Collections and Archives, Harvard Business School Repository

Baker Library Special Collections and Archives holds unique resources that focus on the evolution of business and industry, as well as the records of the Harvard Business School, documenting the institution's development over the last century. These rich and varied collections support research in a diverse range of fields such as business, economic, social and cultural history as well as the history of science and technology.

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