Racially segregated insurance folders from the early 1960s

My Dad tried and failed to make a living as an insurance salesman back in the early and mid-1960s.  When he left the business, he took with him a bad taste in his mouth and dozens of “Portfolios for an up-to-date Twentieth Century Security Program.”

These were rather clever little folders in which the insured was urged to keep information about insurance records and other important documents.  After my Dad died and my Mom moved into a retirement home, I saved these envelopes, partly out of nostalgia, and partly because I thought they might come in handy.

The folders never came in handy and my need for closet space has outweighed any lingering nostalgia.  Keeping the folders won’t bring either my Dad or my childhood back.  I therefore decided to throw them out.

Before throwing out the folders, though, I riffled through them to make sure that none actually held any of my Dad’s insurance or tax records.  Those would have been historically interesting, but none existed.

What I did notice as I thumbed through the folders was that not all of them had the same photos.  It took me a second to figure out what was going on.  Back in 1963 and 1964, when Twentieth Century (part of the Prudential Insurance Company) was printing up these handy-dandy folders, it prepared segregated versions, one for its black customers and one for its white ones.

There’s nothing demeaning about the black images.  As with the white ones, they have nice homes, sweet children, proud-graduates, and well-insured sick people in nice hospital beds.  It’s just that, both the folders confine themselves strictly to one race.

Here — see for yourself (and click on the images to make them larger):

White Insurance folders

Black insurance folders

I wonder whether Asian families got the black or the white version….

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  • Caped Crusader

    In the South they got the white version, don’t know about the West coast.

  • Pheasant Plucker

    Notice that the black text is the same in both versions. That means they could make a huge run of just that text and then afterwards imprint specific runs tailored to targeted markets. The borders are exactly the same size but the color of the borders changes between versions to match the color of the headers. Please look at the headers and see the difference. The change of images requires a new black plate for imprint as well as another plate for the border and header imprints as they would be different colors. I realize I’m getting way off in the weeds here, but they may have had other versions to target other markets.

  • Robert Arvanitis

    Marketing is always about affiliation and identification.