Lloyd’s Register of British and Foreign Shipping, which deals with the design and construction of ships, was first published in the mid-1700s. Lloyd’s of London, as the world-famous association came to be popularly known, insured vessels based on information contained in the Register, which classified and graded the condition of ships with a system of letters and numbers. The state of a ship’s hull was designated by letters and that of its equipment (anchor, cables, etc.) by numbers. This meant, for example, that a ship classified A-1 was first-rate. If classified A-2, the hull was considered first-rate, but its equipment second-rate. This classification of A-1 to mean excellent, perfect, the very best in ships, has come to apply to almost anything else after Charles Dickens used the designation A-1 to describe people and things.
Lloyd’s, an insurance society, is an association of more than 8,000 individual undewriters grouped into about 400 syndicates (or committees), varying in size from a few persons to several hundred people. Each individual underwriter must deposit a sum of $45,000 or more to guarantee claim payments. Under reinsurance contracts, insurers spread their risks among many companies. This method has enabled Lloyd’s to pay off enormous claims for which they have issued policies — the San Francisco earthquake and fire in 1906, the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, the airship Hindenburg, which burned in 1937, and many later disasters, including hurricanes in the United States.
Lloyd’s today is known for its insuring of almost any risks, many of them unusual, from a dancer’s feet (Zorina’s toes), to an actor’s nose (Jimmy Durante’s), to a starlet’s hips against gaining four inches over a seven-year period (Julie Bishop’s), and a policy of happiness that insured against worry lines appearing on a model’s face.
And all this had its genesis in 1668 in Edward Lloyd’s coffee shop, a favorite meeting place for shipping and insurance men. Edward Lloyd had no financial connection with the insurance enterprises that developed, which at the beginning accepted marine insurance, and which is still its main form of insurance.