May 31, 1905, Chatham NY Courier, Gage E. Tarbell, The Real Man Behind the Sensational Equitable Fight, Of Boundless Personal Ambition, He Wanted to Go to the Head. Starting a Country Agent, He Became Chief Factor in Insurance World. A Master of Men, Spectacular, [Amiable] In Methods, He Spared Nothing to Reach Results.
An Incarnation of Business Drive, Courage and Energy, Started in Life a Law Student, a Jeweler and Mining Promoter—His Motto to Agents, "Get Up"—His Secretary the Highest Salaried Woman In the United States.
During the opening days of titanic struggle in tho Equitable Life Assurance association, which shook the business world and whose end is not yet, little was seen by the public of the real man who caused the conflict and who expected to benefit by it if the word of his enemies is to be credited. This man Is Gage E. Tarbell, the second vice president.
Tarbell worked his way up from a country agent to a place that gives him charge of all the agents in the United States and Canada, with a salary of $60,000 per year and with very well defined hopes, it is said, of one day being president of the company. And that is why the battle was fought. At least that is the charge made by Henry H. Knowles. a former Equitable employee, who asserted that the plan of the Alexander-Tarbell faction was to oust first Vice-President James Hazen Hyde, then in a few years, President Alexander, who is growing old, would retire, after which Tarbell would naturally go to the head.
The career of Mr. Tarbell is of the most intense interest as a revelation of the business methods of the age. It
exemplifies in an extreme degree the virtues and the faults develops in the modern struggle for wealth and place. Tarbell is the very incarnation of energy, self confidence and personal ambition. Strength, pluck, perseverance are written in the lines of his face, are revealed by his words, are shown by his career.
Evidently he has followed his own advice. He has got up. From a poor boy to the second vice presidency of one of the great insurance companies of the world. A company spanning two continents. A salary greater than that received by the president of the United States. Plans well laid for another step higher. He has driven for this, schemed for it, worked night and day for it, stirred up his agents for it, given rebates to write more business for it, kept his eye on the main chance for it, written more policies than any other agent in the United States for it, and it has come. "It is perfectly lovely after you once get up."
Told by his Enemies.
Tarbell has enemies strewn all along the way. One cannot drive and crowd and mount over other men without making enemies.
These enemies say rather uncomplimentary things. Enemies generally do. They say that Tarbell is so ambitious that he is selfish, that he thinks only of Tarbell, that ho makes great schemes, and if the schemes collapse he gets from under and leaves others to be buried in the debris. They say that in the old days he organized mining schemes in tho state of Wisconsin, that he sold large amounts of stock, among others some to his former neighbors in New York, and that most everybody lost by these deals excepting Tarbell. He made good. They also say that to write his immense amounts of insurance he gives rebates, a thing opposed to the principles of all insurance companies and even unlawful in many of the states. They likewise assert that he has even continued this policy since reaching his present position; that he is reckless in expenditures in trying to achieve results. Again, they aver, as before stated, that he organized this whole great Equitable fight so that he might succeed to the presidency of the company, a very proud position, by the way, paying $100,000 per year. And, lastly, they say that the board of directors have "got wise" to this and that they are unanimously of the opinion that Tarbell must be forced out. This is the latest development of the immense struggle for millions. Still, one can never tell. Gage E. Tarbell has a strange habit of lighting on his feet.
A Picturesque Career.
Mr. Tarbell's career is picturesque. Born in Chenango county, N. Y., in 1856, he helped pay his way through school by soliciting life insurance. Then he went into the Jewelry business at the little town of Marathon. Than he studied law. Waiting for clients was not to the liking of his active mind so he began again soliciting insurance. Then the western fever took him, and he went to Madison, Wis., bought out an Equitable agency and began to develop his wonderful powers as an insurance agent. So well did he succeed that he was not satisfied with his $5,000 salary and asked to be placed on a commission basis. He dreamed of $100,000 policies. The smaller ones he took as fillers. It was for the big ones that he planned. Then came along the iron mine excitement and he embarked in this. As a promoter he had the same success as he had as an insurance solicitor. The mine bubble burst after a time, but Tarbell got out with a good stake. About this time he went to Milwaukee. There was a great furniture company that failed, and Tarbell in some way, was in as having been assigned some of the claims. There were assertions of irregularity in connection with this assignment and the case went to the courts. Tarbell won as usual. [illegible paragraphs]
"On the last day of November, 1891, I received a telegram from Mr. Henry B. Hyde, the late president of this society, asking me if I could give him from the field under my management $3,500,000 of business in the month of December. The amount was much larger than had ever been produced in the agency in a single month, and at first blush it seemed impossible of accomplishment. Then immediately the thought came to me that the greatest life assurance man in the world would not have asked me for that amount if he had thought its accomplishment impossible, and I wired Mr. Hyde that he should have the business. I immediately asked every agent in my employ to work during the month of December with the sole purpose of writing the largest possible amount of first class business every day. I kept the thought before them constantly for the whole month and found at its close that the agency had written and forwarded to New York in a single month more than $5,000,000 of business."
Tarbell's Success Recipes.
On the death of President Hyde, James W. Alexander became president and Gage E. Tarbell was promoted to the second vice presidency of the company. When he was called to New York ho was made supervisor of agents, und this was still his work after his final promotion. One element of his success lay in his power to stir his men. One of the ways he had of doing this was by sending out circular letters in book form containing success recipes. If one may use the term. Here are a few of the more juicy of these:
Make every day count, and if possible make some of them count two.
What a man can do is his greatest ornament.
By desiring a thing sufficiently and determining to have it and working earnestly and intelligently for it, that thing must be accomplished. It simply cannot elude your grasp.
The only Milton the world respects is the glorious old blind man who lived and sang, and it has never given a laurel wreath yet for a deed undone.
It is the enthusiasts who do the climbing, making progress every day, and who get to the top.
I may be censured for "driving," but I tell you that work—keeping busy—is the cure for half the ills of life and the source of nine-tenths of its happiness.
Good mottoes, these, not only for life insurance, but for life.
His Summer School
Mr. Tarbell had many other ways of stirring up the agents under him. One of these was to hold a summer school in New York, instructing college boys in the ways of soliciting insurance and between lectures sending them out to secure business in the metropolis. At the close of the school in 1903 a banquet was held, and Tarbell, near the close of his address used this language:
"You will find that the reputation of a life insurance company is almost as sensitive, if not quite, as the reputation of a man or a woman, and I beg of you never to do anything to tarnish it in the least"
In the light of subsequent events that remark takes on a peculiar, almost a mournful, significance and perhaps one not originally intended. The most secret affairs of the Equitable have been brought before the public,
and the two factions have not been at all sparing in the charges they have made against each other. Still, Mr. Tarbell's loyalty to the Equitable is one of his most marked traits. He talks it, dreams it, lives it. His whole being apparently has been bound up in the company. He has filled those under him with this spirit of loyalty to the great institution they serve.
His $12,000 Secretary.
This is strikingly shown In the attitude of his secretary, Miss Anna D. Amendt, who, by the way, is the highest salaried woman in the United States. Miss Amendt's personality is almost as interesting as that of her chief. She worked her way up from a poor Ohio schoolteacher. It was then, she said, she used to pray not to wake in the morning, she hated the work so. She went to Chicago, studied stenography [illegible paragraphs]
February 2, 1909, The Brooklyn Eagle, Tarbell, As Fireman, Saves Country Home, Son of Gage E. and Other Garden City Estates Youths, Fight Flames, WALTERS HOME CONSUMED. Well-Known Colonists, in Automobiles, Watch Fire Which It Is Believed Was Incendiary.
(Special to the Eagle.)
Garden City, L. I., February 2—-Swift Tarbell, son of Gage E. Tarbell, and a number, of other well-known young men living at Garden City Estates, accomplished heroic work as fire fighters at a blaze which last night consumed the unfinished home of E. B. Walters, the piano manufacturer, and seriously endangered the Tarbell residence.
The fire, which is believed to have been incendiary, broke out in the Walters dwelling shortly after 10 o'clock. It was bitterly cold at that hour, and the fire fighters had no easy time of it. The home of Swift Tarbell, which adjoined the Walters site, was badly scorched, and all the windows oh the fire side of the house were broken by the heat.
Well-known people came from the surrounding country in automobiles and sleighs to watch the flames. The home of Gage E. Tarbell, Swift Tarbell's father, on the other side of the Walters house, was not endangered.
Among the residents of Garden City Estates who, with young Tarbell, helped to fight, the flames were J. M. Callanan; his sons, Ernest and Fred; W. H. Humphrey, William. Brockhausen, and Thomas and Benjamin Catchings; all members of the Garden City Estates Hose Company. Later these were reinforced. by pupils from St. Paul's School. The fire illuminated the sky and surrounding country for miles. Among the scores of persons who hastened to the fire in automobiles, wagons and sleighs was Mrs. Walters, who is boarding at the Garden City Hotel. The loss on the Walters dwelling is about $5,000, covered by insurance. The house would soon have been ready for occupancy.
No one was in the house when the fire broke out, the workmen having left many hours before.
Mrs. Swift Tarbell remained in her home while the fire which threatened the Tarbell residence was being extinguished.
May 1, 1905, Attack By Knowles On Tarbell's Methods;
Former Equitable Life Official Tells of Chicago Rebates. Business Expired Quickly; Declares the Present Second Vice President Violated His Own Instructions.
Henry H. Knowles, who until Thursday last was Supervisor of Agencies for the Equitable Life Assurance Society, and who was on that day discharged from the company's service, issued a statement last night, in which he sets forth at length some alleged transactions by Gage E. Tarbell, the Second Vice President of the Equitable.
April, 1905, The World's Work, Volume 9, Gage E. Tarbell, Insurance Strategist,
Why He, As Head of the Agency Force, Is the Officer on Whom the Dissensions In the Equitable Life Assurance Society Turn; by I. S. Grim,
THE recent disturbances in the affairs of the Equitable Life Assurance Society have made clear the importance to an insurance company of the man who directs and organizes its force of agents. Insurance men have realized it for a long time; but it was not until Mr. George W. Perkins, the second vice-president of the New York Life Insurance Company, was invited to become a partner in the banking house of J. P. Morgan & Company that outsiders began to realize the extent of the power accumulated by a competent manager of the canvassers for insurance. In the troubles in the Equitable Life Assurance Society, Mr. Gage E. Tarbell, the second vice-president of the company and the head of the agency department, has had, all through the negotiations, an authority and a degree of prestige very much greater than is to be accounted for by the duties ordinarily associated with his office.
The strength of every insurance company lies in the great body of policy-holders. If they believe that the affairs of the company are being wisely and honestly administered, they take but little interest in the personality of the presidents and other officers. The policy-holder "doesn't want to be bothered." He regards the insurance business as a rather complicated department of finance, and his interest in the running of the company is limited to a jealous desire to get his money's worth of insurance. But let the policyholders scent dishonesty; let them become uneasy and querulous, and they then stampede. The man who can stir that very powerful army into action, or who can so reassure it that no disturbance raised by outside raiding will affect its serenity, is the big man of the insurance business, in these days of a general disposition toward a close public scrutiny of all large enterprises.
Even without the voting privilege which is enjoyed by the so-called "mutual" company's policy-holders, the sentiment and the disposition of the policy-holders are of the greatest importance to the company. The thousands and thousands of policy-holders who are scattered throughout the country have just one channel through which they can be reached by the officers of the company. That channel is through the agencies. If a policy-holder be disgruntled and suspicious, his complaint is made known to the local agency nearest him. The local agency sends it along to the general agency, and in the general agency the matter comes under the observation of the officer in charge.
In the mutual companies the strategic advantage of the manager of agencies is much more tangible. Every policy-holder, when he makes his application for insurance, is asked to sign a proxy giving the privilege of his vote to one or another of the directors. Sometimes the proxy is not presented for signature until the insurance is actually in force; but it is almost never withheld when the agent asks for it. The names of those who are to use the proxy are printed in the blank. In the mutual company, the man who has the best understanding of the machinery through which these proxies are collected has a mighty voice in the administration of the company, though it may be a" voice seldom raised. It matters not whether he be called president or manager of agencies, he is the real head of the com^ any, or at least, has it in his power to become the real head whenever he wants to. It is not necessary to go into more elaborate explanations to find a reason why, when it was proposed to change the form of government of the Equitable from one-man government by stock-holders to one-man government by policy-holders' proxies, the allegiance of Mr. Tarbell was eagerly sought by both parties to the controversy. There is a certain dignity of proportion in a difference of opinion between giants of Wall Street in regard to the handling of $411,000,000. The presence of Mr. Tarbell in the midst of them, deferred to by the candidate of one side for high office, and then by the candidate of the other, was due to his unlimited capacity for making other men see things as he sees them. Persuasiveness, enthusiasm, and unremitting activity have put Mr. Tarbell where he is. It would not surprise those " on the inside" to learn that he already has in hand enough proxies of policy-holders, becoming effective when the company is mutualized, to make him the decisive factor in the conflict.
When Mr. Tarbell began writing insurance for the Equitable Society in Chicago, years ago, he had marvelous success. It is told of him that he invented the "letter of introduction" method of getting around the prohibition against the sharing of an agent's commission with the policy-holder.
"I cannot offer a rebate to you," he would say to the man from whom he was trying to get an application for a $100,000 policy. "But, if you will take this policy, I will pay you $ 100 apiece for ten letters of introduction to men of as large means and of as much importance in the community as yourself. It is a perfectly fair price for me to pay you, because the letters will make it possible for me to make very much more than I pay you for them."
The delightful ingenuity of this plan, and the manifold advantages of it for both the agent and his client, appealed very strongly to the business men of Chicago. They liked Agent Tarbell's way, and the business he did was the marvel of his own office and the despair of his competitors. In those days, agents got a commission on "renewals"; that is, every time a policy-holder paid his annual premium. Mr. Tarbell told a friend within the last few weeks that his income from those renewal commissions brings him annually a sum of money far greater than his salary as second vice-president of the Equitable.
As a deviser of ways to make the men in agencies go out and fight for new policyholders, Mr. Tarbell possesses a versatility which is worthy of his record as a solicitor. One of his most brilliant achievements has been the founding of the Summer School of Insurance. Mr. Tarbell not only is an enthusiast himself, but he insists on enthusiasm in those under him. It seemed to him that there was much enthusiasm going to waste in the colleges of the land that ought to be applied to the writing of insurance. He wrote to the colleges three years ago on behalf of his company, offering to pay the expenses in New York of a few students from each college, and guaranteeing seventyfive dollars a month to graduates of the school who showed aptitude. The sessions of the school are held in the Equitable building in New York for a month. A banquet, at which speeches are made to the class by men prominent in finance, marks the end of the sessions. In the school, demonstrations are given of the ways in which a cross merchant can be persuaded to lend an ear to the young agent—and the like.
Without being exactly excitable, Mr. Tarbell is very full of life. The same qualities which made him irresistible as a solicitor keep the men under him convinced that they must do as much business as he says he expects of them. At one of the summer school banquets a speaker told of going out to lunch with Mr. Tarbell and observing that Mr. Tarbell was abstractedly making marks on the bill-of-fare. Later, the guest surreptitiously looked at the card and discovered that the vagrant fingers had traced out the words:
Mr. Tarbell never argues. He merely states his own side of the matter under discussion so picturesquely and so rapidly, and with such an altogether convincing air that the man on the other side might as well not talk at all. Nevertheless, as was shown at the most acute stage of the Equitable dissensions, Mr. Tarbell can make up his mind with great rapidity, once he is confronted with a situation that requires prompt and decided action. He has made every man in the broadly ramifying system of agencies feel a direct personal responsibility to Gage E. Tarbell. And that is the reason why Mr. Tarbell is essential to the success of the various parties concerned in the difficulties of the company.
Full text of "National magazine .."
He was the admira- tion and cynosure of thousands of black eyes that day, and no man...Boston NATIONAL MAGAZINE for OCTOBER, 1904 FIGHTING MEN FROM....old world spot he chooses, and the graceful movements of the gondolier as he......J Thechief factor in the success of each man wage-worker, farmer, and...
Full text of "The World's work" - us-archives.org - Internet Archive
The late Mr. Charles Dudley Warner, when he heard a rumor of it, wrote in ..In othercountries as well as our own The World's Work has been most kindly received. "fovd" or independent shop, special agents go forth to take personal charge Western Union Telegraph Com- pany, the Equitable Life Insurance Society,
Full text of "Current literature" - us-archives.org
The New York Sun suspects the story to be a myth; but, if it is true, he will be apt, ......What we want in college is a game where the man who is in college for the right .....the investigating committee by Gage E. Tarbell, of the Equitable, which has been ...tionSp they will discard the private agency and resort to State insurance.
Index of Current Literature, Edited by Edward J. Wheeler, Vol. XL,, January-June, 1906
Full text of "Current literature" - Internet Archive
Of one other representative, from Missouri, it is said that he never saw a ...... When you are opposed to a strong man, you have got to get the better of him by ..... to the investigating committee by Gage E. Tarbell, of the Equitable, which has been ......sense of personal relationship to his publisher by employing "literary agents"
THE seamy side of life insurance has continued on exhibition in New York during the month and the feeling of public indignation and disgust still finds abundant