This month in New York Life history—May.

New York Life | May 1, 2020

This story was updated on May 1, 2024.

The Brooklyn Bridge

At New York Life


May 28: The Brave of Heart Fund now accepting applications: Family members of healthcare workers and volunteers who have lost their lives in the COVID-19 fight encouraged to apply for grants.


May 4: New York Life filed for a trademark for a new national slogan: “The Company You Keep.”


May 13: A new series of proprietary mutual funds launched. This proprietary line would be a success, reaching $1 billion in assets by 1989.


May 20: President Donald K. Ross succeeded R. Manning Brown as Chairman and CEO of New York Life. Ross’s nine years at the helm would be formative for New York Life’s expansion in both its investments and business avenues.

As junk bonds rose dramatically in popularity among other insurers because of their high-profit potential, Ross focused on more reliable investment vehicles. At the same time, he moved the company into offering mutual funds and other financial planning products.

Over the course of the decade, his restrained approach to investment would lead the company’s assets to grow by more than 100%, earn Moody’s highest grade of investment rating, and leave New York Life positioned as one of the most stable companies in the country after the economy began to decline in the early 1990s.


May 18: Mount St. Helens volcano erupted in southwestern Washington State spewing steam and ash over 11 miles into the sky. This was the first major eruption since 1857.


May 18: New York Life incorporated the New York Life Foundation to award grants to non-profit organizations throughout the nation. On July 17, the company gave the foundation a $10 million endowment with which to begin operations.


May 7: The dismantling of the second Madison Square Garden began, readying the site for the construction of New York Life’s new Home Office Building. (The current building known as Madison Square Garden is the fourth to bear that name and the second not to be located on Madison Square.)

The dismantling began with a ceremonial removal of the iconic statue of the goddess Diana from the Garden’s tower. Many people, including New York Life chairman Darwin Kingsley, attended as a way of paying their respects to the Garden. Diana now resides at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.


May 1: The famous Chicago World’s Fair began its six-month exhibition. It was one of the most famous cultural events of the 1800s — nearly 26 million people visited it at a time when the U.S. population was only about 63 million. New York Life hosted an exhibit at the fair to convey the company’s financial strength and innovativeness as well as the desirability of its products.


May 24: Winifred Supple became the first non-agent woman employee of New York Life. She worked as a stenographer and typist at the Home Office and stayed with the company until her retirement in 1921.


May 24: The Brooklyn Bridge opened after fourteen years of construction. New York Life was one of the project’s largest bondholders and by far the largest insurance company to hold bonds.


May 11: The board of trustees met for the first time at the company’s new Home Office building at 346 Broadway. New York Life continued to operate out of the facility until it moved to 51 Madison Avenue in 1928. The 346 Broadway location would become a national historic landmark known appropriately enough as “The Former New York Life Building.”


May 2: The earliest-known advertisement for New York Life ran in New York City’s The Evening Post newspaper.

Around the World


May 10: Former political prisoner Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as president of South Africa. Mandela had won the first free election in South Africa despite attempts by various political foes to deter the outcome.


May 5: Alan Shepard became the first American in space. He piloted the spacecraft Freedom 7 during a 15-minute 28-second suborbital flight that reached an altitude of 116 miles (186 kilometers) above the earth. Shepard’s success occurred 23 days after the Russians had launched the first-ever human in space, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, during an era of intense technological competition between the Russians and Americans called the Space Race.


May 20: Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. She departed Newfoundland, Canada, at 7 p.m. and landed near Londonderry, Ireland, completing a 2,026-mile flight in about 13 hours. Five years later, along with her navigator Fred Noonan, she disappeared while trying to fly her twin-engine plane around the equator.


May 21: The American Red Cross was founded by Clara Barton. The organization today provides volunteer disaster relief in the U.S. and abroad. Community services include collecting and distributing donated blood and teaching health and safety classes.


May 17: Two dozen merchants and brokers established the New York Stock Exchange. In good weather they operated under a buttonwood tree on Wall Street. In bad weather they moved inside to a coffeehouse to conduct business.


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Media contact

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