The Homestead, a local Grinnell newspaper, opined on May 6, 1898, just days after the appearance of a tornado in Poweshiek County, that tornadoes, like thunderstorms, were bound to visit the area. Because this is so, said the newspaper’s editors, citizens needed to be prepared in two ways: a tornado cave in which to take shelter and their “property insured in some cheap and reliable company.”
“The Homestead has frequently called the attention of its readers to the merits of the Iowa Mutual Tornado Insurance association and their experience warrants it in continuing to do so. This is one of the grandest institutions in Iowa. It now carries over $50,000,000 in risks and is increasing its business faster than ever before at this time of the year. The secretary, Mr. J.B. Herriman, informs us that he received over 1,200 applications in March and over 1,400 in April.”
Following this whole-hearted endorsement, the editors note not only that much of the local property recently destroyed by the tornado was insured by Iowa Mutual Tornado, but also that policy-holders will have been reimbursed for their losses before this issue of the newspaper reaches its readers. “Sufferers who were so fortunate as to hold a policy in the association will have no need to rely upon the charity of others for help,” claim the editors, though they then also tell readers that “the man who is not willing to help others deserves but little sympathy when he meets with misfortune.” Still, their principal message is that everyone should insure their property against tornado damage “when he can do so at so small a cost.”
The editors offer this advice because they have observed, they say, that the absence of tornadoes in 1897 has lulled readers into complacency. One hundred and twenty years later we are in no position to doubt their word, but extensive damage done by the June 1882 tornado in Grinnell, recorded in numerous photographs, would seem to be unforgettable for anyone who witnessed it firsthand.
Source: “Mutual Insurance: Tornadoes and Tornado Losses,” The Homestead, May 6, 1898; SHSI: images: “disasters-natural-tornadoes.”