Life insurers failed to see light over Edison's electrical skills

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The Independent Online
EVERYONE knows Enrico Caruso was overweight but few knew why until yesterday when Mutual Life Insurance of New York released his old policy.

According to Mutual's doctor, although the singer was 5ft 8in, his 14 stone was due 'not to obesity but to the strong muscular and bony development'.

As part of its 150th anniversary celebration, Mutual has released a handful of policies of its most famous late clients, including Will Rogers, Thomas Edison, Huey Long and Ignacy Paderewski.

In 1893 Edison opened a dollars 10,000 policy despite having sugar in his urine because, the Mutual's doctor explained, the sample was taken an hour after Edison's company, General Electric, lost 50 per cent of its value on the Stock Exchange. The great man was under stress. The policy included a clause exempting the company from payment if Edison electrocuted himself while 'acting as an electrician'.

Paderewski took out a policy for dollars 50,000 in 1921 when 61 years old. The pianist and composer was considered a good risk. He earned dollars 200,000 a year and spent money 'very freely'. The insurance agent wrote: 'I might mention that when he goes to the movies, he pays them dollars 20 not to play the organ while he's there.'

Mutual had a spot of misfortune with Huey Long, the infamous governor of Louisiana who ruled like a dictator.

When he took out a policy in 1925, the agent noted Mr Long's reputation for being a boozer, which would have disqualified him from being insured, was exaggerated: 'Long actually dislikes liquor but drinks to stand in with politicians and be rated a jolly good fellow.'

He was assassinated in 1935 and the company had to pay double - dollars 40,000 - because it was deemed an accidental death.

Mutual had no better luck with Will Rogers, the humorist and actor. His policy covered all air travel. He died in a plane crash in 1935.