This month in New York Life history—May.

New York Life | May 1, 2020


At New York Life

May 1, 1893

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 2, 1845

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

May 4, 1989

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

May 7, 1925

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 Kinglsey, attended as a way of paying their respects to the Garden. Diana now resides at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

May 11, 1871

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 13, 1986  

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

May 18, 1978

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 20, 1981

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 percent, 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 24, 1883

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 24, 1885

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.

Around the World

May 1, 2004

Eight former Communist nations and two Mediterranean countries joined the European Union (EU) marking its largest-ever expansion. The new members included Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, along with the island of Malta and the Greek portion of the island of Cyprus. They joined 15 countries already in the EU, representing in all 450 million persons.

May 4, 1494

During his second journey of exploration in the New World, Christopher Columbus discovered Jamaica.

May 4, 1970 

At Kent State University, four students were killed by National Guardsmen who opened fire on a crowd of 1,000 students protesting President Richard Nixon's decision to invade Cambodia. The shootings set off tumultuous campus demonstrations across America resulting in the temporary closing of over 450 colleges and universities.

May 5, 1865 

Decoration Day was first observed in the U.S., with the tradition of decorating soldiers' graves from the Civil War with flowers. The observance date was later moved to May 30th and included American graves from World War I and World War II and became better known as Memorial Day. In 1971, Congress moved Memorial Day to the last Monday in May, thus creating a three-day holiday weekend.

May 5, 1893

The Wall Street Crash of 1893 began as stock prices fell dramatically. By the end of the year, 600 banks closed and several big railroads were in receivership. Another 15,000 businesses went bankrupt amid 20 percent unemployment. It was the worst economic crisis in U.S. history up to that time.

May 5, 1961

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 6, 2023

The coronation of Charles III and his wife, Camilla, as king and queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms, took place on 6 May 2023 at Westminster Abbey. Charles acceded to the throne on 8 September 2022, upon the death of his mother, Elizabeth II.

May 6, 1527

The Renaissance ended with the Sack of Rome by German troops as part of an ongoing conflict between the Hapsburg Empire and the French Monarchy. German troops killed over 4,000 Romans, imprisoned the Pope, and looted works of art and libraries. An entire year passed before order could be restored in Rome.

May 6, 1937

The German airship Hindenburg burst into flames at 7:20 p.m. as it neared the mooring mast at Lakehurst, New Jersey, following a trans-Atlantic voyage. Thirty six of the 97 passengers and crew were killed. The inferno was caught on film and also witnessed by a commentator who broke down amid the emotional impact and exclaimed, "Oh, the humanity!" The accident effectively ended commercial airship traffic.

May 7, 1915 

The British passenger ship Lusitania was torpedoed by a German submarine off the coast of Ireland, losing 1,198 of its 1,924 passengers, including 114 Americans. The attack hastened neutral America's entry into World War I.

May 7, 1945 

In a small red brick schoolhouse in Reims, Germany, General Alfred Jodl signed the unconditional surrender of all German fighting forces thus ending World War II in Europe. Russian, American, British and French ranking officers observed the signing of the document which became effective at one-minute past midnight on May 9th.

May 8, 1942 

During World War II in the Pacific, the Battle of the Coral Sea began in which Japan would suffer its first defeat of the war. The battle, fought off New Guinea, marked the first time in history that two opposing naval forces fought by only using aircraft without the opposing ships ever sighting each other.

May 10, 1869

The newly constructed tracks of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railways were first linked at Promontory Point, Utah. A golden spike was driven by Leland Stanford, president of the Central Pacific, to celebrate the linkage. It is said that he missed the spike on his first swing which brought roars of laughter from men who had driven thousands upon thousands of spikes themselves.

May 10, 1994

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 11, 1862

To prevent its capture by Union forces advancing in Virginia, the Confederate Ironclad Merrimac was destroyed by the Confederate Navy. In March, the Merrimac had fought the Union Ironclad Monitor to a draw. Naval warfare was thus changed forever, making wooden ships obsolete.

May 12, 1937

George VI was crowned at Westminster Abbey in London, following the abdication of his brother, Edward VIII. King George reigned until his death in 1952. He was succeeded by his daughter Elizabeth, the who reigned as monarch until she passed away on September 8, 2022.  

May 13, 1846

At the request of President James K. Polk, Congress declared war on Mexico. The controversial struggle eventually cost the lives of 11,300 U.S. soldiers and resulted in the annexation of lands that became parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Utah and Colorado. The war ended in 1848 with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

May 14, 1607

The first permanent English settlement in America was established at Jamestown, Virginia, by a group of royally chartered Virginia Company settlers from Plymouth, England.

May 14, 1804

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark departed St. Louis on their expedition to explore the Northwest. They arrived at the Pacific coast of Oregon in November of 1805 and returned to St. Louis in September of 1806, completing a journey of about 6,000 miles.

May 14, 1796

Smallpox vaccine was developed by Dr. Edward Jenner, a physician in rural England. He coined the term vaccination for the new procedure of injecting a milder form of the disease into healthy persons resulting in immunity. Within 18 months, 12,000 persons in England had been vaccinated and the number of smallpox deaths dropped by two-thirds.

May 14, 1942 

During World War II, an Act of Congress allowed women to enlist for noncombat duties in the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC), the Women Appointed for Voluntary Emergency Service (WAVES), Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS), and Semper Paratus Always Ready Service (SPARS), the Women's Reserve of the Marine Corp.

May 17, 1792

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.

May 17, 1875

The first Kentucky Derby horse race took place at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

May 17, 1954

In Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that segregation of public schools "solely on the basis of race" denies black children "equal educational opportunity" even though "physical facilities and other 'tangible' factors may have been equal. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." Thurgood Marshall had argued the case before the Court. He went to become the first African American appointed to the Supreme Court.

May 18, 1980

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 20, 1862

President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act opening millions of acres of government owned land in the West to "homesteaders" who could acquire up to 160 acres by living on the land and cultivating it for five years, paying just $1.25 per acre.

May 20, 1927

Charles Lindbergh, a 25-year-old aviator, took off at 7:52 a.m. from Roosevelt Field, Long Island, in the Spirit of St. Louis attempting to win a $25,000 prize for the first solo nonstop flight between New York City and Paris. Thirty-three hours later, after a 3,600-mile journey, he landed at Le Bourget, Paris, earning the nickname "Lucky Lindy" and becoming an instant worldwide hero.

May 20, 1932

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, 1881

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 22, 1972

President Richard Nixon became the first American president to visit Moscow. Four days later, Nixon and Soviet Russia's leader Leonid Brezhnev signed a pact pledging to freeze nuclear arsenals at current levels.

May 24, 1844

Telegraph inventor Samuel Morse sent the first official telegraph message, "What hath God wrought?" from the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., to Baltimore.

May 25, 1787

The Constitutional Convention began in Philadelphia with delegates from seven states forming a quorum.

May 27, 1937

In San Francisco, 200,000 people celebrated the grand opening of the Golden Gate Bridge by strolling across it.

May 30, 1783

The Pennsylvania Evening Post became the first daily newspaper published in America

May 30, 1922

The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., was dedicated. The Memorial was designed by architect Henry Bacon and features a compelling statue of "Seated Lincoln" by sculptor Daniel Chester French.


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Media contact

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