The History of Harleysville Insurance

Harleysville Insurance had its beginnings in 1915 when Alvin Alderfer, concerned by the theft of several Ford sedans, gathered the community’s leading citizens at Tyson’s Hotel in Harleysville to discuss his idea of forming an “Association” like the horse theft societies that area farmers had used for many years to spread the risk among many. Alderfer’s proposal was to form an association to protect their cars. Each member would contribute a small membership fee to a fund that would pay the costs of recovering or replacing any of the members’ stolen cars.

The 102 members confined their business to friends and neighbors until the state Department of Insurance notified Alderfer that his group would have to disband or charter the organization under state laws. On October 9, 1917, the association chartered itself as the Mutual Auto Theft Insurance Company and the Mutual Auto Fire Insurance Company. Two separate entities were required then because state laws prevented the same company from offering both types of protection.

As state laws changed, so did the interests of the company. The Harleysville Mutual Casualty Company was formed in 1922 and merged with the Auto Theft Company in 1933. In 1956, the name was changed to the Harleysville Mutual Insurance Company. Harleysville Life Insurance Company was founded in 1960 to offer individual and group life insurance, disability insurance and retirement plans.

New subsidiaries were added to keep pace with the changing insurance industry. Harleysville Group Inc. was formed in 1979 to manage the growing diversity of subsidiary operations.

The successful public sale of 2,156,250 shares of Harleysville Group Inc. common stock in 1986 marked a milestone in Harleysville’s history. “Going public” was a major step toward securing the capital necessary to expand the company’s operations.

In 1982, Harleysville Group completed its first acquisition of McAlear Associates, Inc., an excess and surplus lines brokerage firm, and the related Huron Insurance Company. (McAlear was sold to Willis Faber Europe B.V. in 1986.) One year later, Harleysville acquired Worcester Insurance Company, a mutual fire insurance company founded in 1823. In 1987, Harleysville acquired Atlantic Insurance Company of Savannah. In 1990, Harleysville Group reached an agreement to manage the operations of Berkshire Mutual Insurance Group. In 1991, Harleysville acquired Connecticut Union Insurance Company and New York Casualty Insurance Company. In 1993, Harleysville Group acquired Lake States Insurance Company and, in 1994, formed Great Oaks Insurance Company in Ohio. In 1997, Harleysville Group acquired Minnesota Fire & Casualty Company.

In 2001, Harleysville announced the decision to consolidate all the individual companies under the Harleysville name in order to: better convey the overall organization’s size, stability and financial strength; unify Harleysville’s brand; and position the company more prominently in the small commercial marketplace. As such, Great Oaks was renamed Harleysville Insurance Company of Ohio, Lake States Insurance Company is now Harleysville Lake States Insurance Company, Minnesota Fire and Casualty Company became Harleysville Insurance Company, New York Casualty Insurance Company is now Harleysville Insurance Company of New York, and Worcester Insurance Company was renamed Harleysville Worcester Insurance Company.

Until the mid-1970s, the majority of Harleysville’s business was in personal lines. Consolidated commercial lines premiums now account for more than 70 percent of the organization’s annual premium volume.

Harleysville’s own territory has expanded far beyond the quiet Pennsylvania community that shares its name. Today, the Harleysville network is represented by about 1,700 associates and some 1,300 agencies in 32 states, and provides a variety of insurance-related products and services, including property, casualty and life insurance. On September 29, 2011, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and Harleysville Mutual Insurance Company and Harleysville Group Inc. entered into a definitive agreement under which Harleysville will combine with Nationwide. Under the terms of the agreement, which was completed on May 1, 2012, Nationwide Mutual acquired all of the publicly held shares of Harleysville Group common stock. The combined organization has a surplus of approximately $13.5 billion and over $14.7 billion in annual direct written premiums.