This month in New York Life history—April.

New York Life | April 1, 2020

This story was updated on April 1, 2024.

At New York Life

April 1, 1997

Seymour “Sy” Sternberg became chairman and CEO of New York Life. He retained the title of president, which he had held since 1995. Renowned for his business acumen, Sternberg would remain CEO until June 30, 2008.

April 4, 1863

Future American President Chester A. Arthur became a New York Life policy owner, the first of several U.S. Presidents to hold New York Life policies.

April 4, 1916

One year before the U.S. entered World War I, New York Life’s board of directors voted to allow employees to take leaves of absence for voluntary pre-enlistment military training. The training programs had been organized by private citizens to keep America prepared in the event the country entered the war.

April 5, 1849 

New York Life adopted its modern name. The company had begun operations in 1845 as “Nautilus Insurance,” originally largely as a fire and marine insurance company. The board of trustees (predecessor to the modern board of directors) voted to change the company’s name to New York Life Insurance Company on this date to reflect the company’s shift to a focus on life insurance.

April 6, 1917 

The United States declared war on Germany, officially entering World War I. New York Life would be heavily involved in the war effort. The company purchased nearly $90 million in low-yield war bonds and encouraged customers to make similar investments on an individual level. Many New York Life employees would also serve: 192 men from the Home Office, 170 field employees and 340 agents. So many people affiliated with the Home Office served in the war that in 1919 the company was awarded its own chapter in the newly formed American Legion: NYLIC Post 503.

April 12, 1845 

New York Life was born when the board of trustees for Nautilus Insurance Company — later renamed New York Life — met for the first time to elect the company’s executive leadership, including first president James DePeyster Ogden. This date is generally regarded as the beginning of New York Life, 177 years ago. 

April 12, 1945 

New York Life commemorated its 100th birthday by writing more than $36 million worth of insurance in one day, its largest total to that point. The death of sitting U.S. President and New York Life policy owner Franklin Roosevelt that afternoon, however, would cause the company to change its plans for a Centennial Day celebration.

April 12, 1985

New York Life illuminated the golden tower of the Home Office Building for the first time in celebration of its 140th anniversary.

April 12, 2008

The New York Life Foundation began accepting grant applications for its new Community Impact Grants Programs, which allowed field agents and field employees to direct the New York Life Foundation grants to organizations in their communities. Grant amounts ranged from $5,000 to $25,000.

April 15, 1947

Future New York Life policy owner Jackie Robinson desegregated Major League Baseball when he started with the Brooklyn Dodgers. In 1962, Robinson would become the first African American inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

April 15, 2015

Index IQ became a New York Life brand as part of an acquisition that brought their expertise in exchange-traded funds to the company. Index IQ celebrated by ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on May 19.

April 18, 2022

Craig DeSanto becomes New York Life's Chief Executive Officer.

April 18, 1906

The Great San Francisco Earthquake hit. The quake and the ensuing fire would kill around 3,000 people and destroy most of the city. Three managers from New York Life’s branch office in the city buried the company’s policies in Golden Gate Park to protect them from the fire. After the quake — while most of the city’s banks and insurance companies remained closed — New York Life set up a temporary office in the burned- over area through which they could make cash policy loans to provide clients a crucial lifeline during the recovery period.

April 21, 2020

New York Life and Cigna launch ‘Brave of Heart Fund’, together raising more than $100 million to provide financial and emotional support for families of frontline healthcare workers and volunteers.

April 22, 1994

Policy owner and former U.S. President Richard M. Nixon passed away. He had been a New York Life policy owner  for more than sixty years.

April 23, 1881

Sitting U.S. President James Garfield became a New York Life policy owner soon after taking the oath of office. Garfield would be shot less than two months later on July 2 and would die from his wounds on September 19. Garfield’s successor, Chester A. Arthur, was also a New York Life policy owner.

April 25, 1995

The Fortune 500 list included mutual insurers for the first time — New York Life placed 84th.

April 27, 2021

New York Life launches $1 billion impact investment initiative to address racial wealth gap by investing in underserved and undercapitalized communities over next three years.

April 28, 1993

New York Life participated in the first annual “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day” (then called “Take Our Daughters to Work Day”). The company has participated every year since.

Around the World

April 2, 1513

Spanish explorer Ponce De Leon sighted Florida and claimed it for the Spanish Crown after landing at the site of present day St. Augustine, now the oldest city in the continental U.S.

April 2, 1792

Congress established the first U.S. Mint at Philadelphia.

April 3, 1860

In the American West, the Pony Express service began as the first rider departed St. Joseph, Missouri. For $5 an ounce, letters were delivered 2,000 miles to California within ten days. The famed Pony Express riders each rode from 75 to 100 miles before handing the letters off to the next rider. A total of 190 way stations were located about 15 miles apart. The service lasted less than two years, ending upon the completion of the overland telegraph.

April 3, 1948 

President Harry S. Truman signed the European Recovery Program, better known as the Marshall Plan, intended to stop the spread of Communism and restore the economies of European countries devastated by World War II. Over four years, the program distributed $12 billion to the nations of Western Europe. The program was first proposed by Secretary of State George C. Marshall during a historic speech at Harvard University on June 5, 1947.

April 3, 1995

Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor became the first woman to preside over the Court, sitting in for Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist who was out of town.

April 4, 1949

Twelve nations signed the treaty creating NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The nations united for common military defense against the threat of expansion by Soviet Russia into Western Europe.

April 4, 1968

Civil Rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was shot and killed by a sniper in Memphis, Tennessee. As head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he had championed non-violent resistance to end racial oppression and had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He is best remembered for his I Have a Dream speech delivered at the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington. That march and King's other efforts helped the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 1986, Congress established the third Monday in January as a national holiday in his honor.

April 6, 1896

After a break of 1500 years, the first Olympics of the modern era was held in Athens, Greece.

April 8, 1913

The 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified requiring direct popular election of U.S. senators. Previously, they had been chosen by state legislatures.

April 10, 1998 

Politicians in Northern Ireland reached an agreement aimed at ending 30 years of violence which had claimed over 3,400 lives. Under the agreement, Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland would govern together in a new 108-member Belfast assembly, thus ending 26 years of ''direct rule'' from London.

April 12, 1861

The American Civil War began as Confederate troops under the command of General Pierre Beauregard  opened fire at 4:30 a.m. on Fort Sumner in Charleston, South Carolina.

April 14, 1828

The first dictionary of American-style English was published by Noah Webster as the American Dictionary of the English Language.

April 16, 1862

Congress abolished slavery in the District of Columbia and appropriated $1 million to compensate owners of freed slaves.

April 18, 1775

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere and William Dawes occurred as the two men rode out of Boston about 10 p.m. to warn patriots at Lexington and Concord of the approaching British.

April 18, 1906

The San Francisco Earthquake struck at 5:13 a.m., followed by a massive fire from overturned wood stoves and broken gas pipes. The fire raged uncontrollably for three days resulting in the destruction of over 10,000 acres of property and 4,000 lives lost.

April 22, 1864

"In God We Trust" was included on all newly minted U.S. coins by an Act of Congress.

April 24, 1800

The Library of Congress was established in Washington, D.C. It is America's oldest federal cultural institution and the world's largest library. Among the 145 million items in its collections are more than 33 million books, 3 million recordings, 12.5 million photographs, 5.3 million maps, 6 million pieces of sheet music and 63 million manuscripts. About 10,000 new items are added each day.

April 26, 1986 

At the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine, an explosion caused a meltdown of the nuclear fuel and spread a radioactive cloud into the atmosphere, eventually covering most of Europe. A 300-square-mile area around the plant was evacuated. Thirty one persons were reported to have died while an additional thousand cases of cancer from radiation were expected. The plant was then encased in a solid concrete tomb to prevent the release of further radiation.

April 26, 1994 

Multiracial elections were held for the first time in the history of South Africa. With approximately 18 million blacks voting, Nelson Mandela was elected president and F.W. de Klerk vice president.

April 30, 1789

George Washington became the first U.S. President as he was administered the oath of office on the balcony of Federal Hall at the corner of Wall and Broad Streets in New York City.


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Media contact

Kevin Maher
New York Life Insurance Company
(212) 576-7937