Wright, Elizur, 1804-1885

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American reformer and actuary.

From the description of Autograph verses signed "E. Wright," untitled : and apparently addressed to John Pierpont, [n.p., n.d.]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270584296

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Boston, to Harper & Brothers, 1847 Jul. 23. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270584294

Elizur Wright was the first commissioner of insurance of Massachusetts (1858-1866), a post created after years of lobbying by Wright for insurance reform. He was also a journalist, editor, and abolitionist. See sketch in Dictionary of American Biography.

From the description of Business papers, 1845-1916 (inclusive). (Harvard Business School). WorldCat record id: 269595251

From the guide to the Elizur Wright business papers, (inclusive), 1845-1916, (Baker Library, Harvard Business School)

Abolitionist, actuary, and atheist; b. Elizur Wright, Jr., in South Canaan, Conn., raised in Tallmadge, Ohio, and graduated from Yale. Although he aspired to become a minister, he was more interested in studying science and mathematics and became teacher of mathematics at Western Reserve College; member of American Colonization Society but became an abolitionist by the summer of 1832 and published many essays in the Hudson Observer and Telegraph advocating Immediatism; continued working for abolition throughout the 1840s but his focus shifted to the reform of the life insurance industry in the 1850s and was commissioned by the Massachusetts Hospital Life Insurance Company to gather information on English actuarial practices which led to the publication in 1853 of his Valuation Tables. He also invented the arithmeter, a calculating device and served as a member of the Board of Insurance Commissioners in Massachusetts; later worked to preserve Middlesex Fells which after his death was made into a park in 1894.

From the description of Elizur Wright collection, 1887-1932. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 232608898

Reformer, publisher, and actuary.

From the description of Elizur Wright papers, 1793-1935 (bulk 1830-1885). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 70981208

Abolitionist, teacher at Western Reserve College, and first insurance commissioner of Massachusetts, of South Canaan, Conn., Hudson, Ohio, and Medford, Mass.

From the description of Richard O. Curry collection, 1822-1865. (University of Connecticut). WorldCat record id: 28409441

Elizur Wright, Jr., was an abolitionist, and professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at Western Reserve College (Hudson, Ohio).

From the description of Letters, 1822-1843 / [compiled by] Elizur Wright, [Jr.]. (Rhinelander District Library). WorldCat record id: 19898736

Biographical Note

  • 1804, Feb. 12: Born, South Canaan, Conn.
  • 1810: Moved to Tallmadge, Summit Co., Ohio
  • 1826: A.B., Yale College, New Haven, Conn.
  • 1826 - 1828 : Teacher, Lawrence Academy, Groton, Conn.
  • 1829: Married Susan Clark
  • 1829 - 1833 : Professor of mathematics and natural philosophy, Western College, Reserve Hudson, Ohio
  • 1833: Moved to New York, N.Y.
  • 1833 - 1839 : Founding member and corresponding secretary, American Anti-Slavery Society
  • 1834 - 1835 : Editor, Human Rights
  • 1835 - 1837 : Editor, Quarterly Anti-Slavery Magazine
  • 1838: Moved to Boston, Mass.; joined Gerrit Smith, James G. Birney, and others in forming the Liberty Party
  • 1838 - 1839 : Editor, Massachusetts Abolitionist
  • 1841: Published translation, The Fables of La Fontaine
  • 1846: Editor, Chronotype (later Commonwealth)
  • 1853: Published Life Insurance Valuation Tables
  • 1858 - 1866 : Appointed insurance commissioner, Massachusetts
  • 1866 - 1885 : Consulting actuary
  • 1869: Patented the “arithmeter,” a calculating machine
  • 1879: President, National Liberal League
  • 1882: Published The Life of Myron Holley
  • 1883: President, Middlesex Fells Association
  • 1885, Nov. 21: Died, Medford, Mass.

From the guide to the Elizur Wright Papers, 1793-1935, (bulk 1830-1885), (Manuscript Division Library of Congress)

Elizur Wright (1804-1885) was born in South Canaan, Connecticut, raised in Tallmadge, Ohio and graduated from Yale. Although he aspired to become a minister he was more interested in studying science and mathematics than Hebrew and decided to accept a position at Western Reserve College in Hudson, Ohio. In 1829, he was appointed Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at WRC and married Susan Clark.

In the 1830s, Western Reserve College was the location of fierce intellectual battles between Colonizationalists; the anti-slavery movement in favor of sending freed black to an African colony and the Immediatists; the anti-slavery movement in favor of immediate freedom and American citizenship for all slaves. Wright was a member of the American Colonization Society but converted to the Immidiatist's cause becoming by the "summer of 1832, the preeminent immediatist of the West." Wright published many essays in the Hudson Observer and Telegraph advocating Immediatism. He resigned the shortly after his fellow abolitionist, Beriah Green did. The final three years of Wright's four year tenure at WRC, were so divisive that enrollment and funding were negatively impacted and according to one historian, it "retarded the development of the college for the next twenty years."

Although Elizur continued working for abolition throughout the 1840s and 1850s his focus gradually shifted to the reform of the life insurance industry. In the the 1850s, he was commissioned by the Massachusetts Hospital Life Insurance Company, based on his mathematical expertise, to gather information on English actuarial practices. The publication in 1853 of Elizur's Valuation Tables was a significant milestone in the evolution of the life insurance industry. It figured the amount of each premium that should be held in reserve based on the life expectancy of the policy holder to ensure the company would remain solvent. He also invented the arithmeter, a crude calculating device, and served as a member of the Board of Insurance Commissioners in Massachusetts. He was tireless in work in the life insurance industry to ensure that policy holders were protected and that companies remained truthful about their practices as well as solvent earned him the title "the father of life insurance.'

His last reform project was to preserve Middlesex Fells. Elizur owned and lived on land adjacent to the Fells seemed to find comfort in its natural beauty as he aged. It appeared to help him through the deaths of several of his children and his beloved wife. In November of 1885, Elizur suffered a stroke and died at the age of 81. The preservation of the Fells, however was not accomplished in Elizur's lifetime but legislation in 1894 made 2,000 acres of this area a park.

From the guide to the Elizur Wright publications, 1877-1931, (Hudson Library & Historical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Weld-Grimké family papers, 1740-1930, 1825-1893 William L. Clements Library , University of Michigan
creatorOf Weld, Theodore Dwight, 1803-1895. Abolitionist Collection, 1834-1884. William & Mary Libraries
creatorOf Wright, Elizur, 1804-1885. Letter, 1833 Feb. 5, Hudson, Ohio, [to] Henry Cowles, Austinburg, Ohio. Ohio History Connection, Ohio Historical Society
creatorOf Wright, Elizur, 1804-1885. Elizur Wright papers, 1793-1935 (bulk 1830-1885). Library of Congress
creatorOf Wright, Elizur, 1804-1885. Autograph letter signed : Boston, to Harper & Brothers, 1847 Jul. 23. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Weld family. Weld-Grimké family papers, 1740-1930, bulk 1825-1893. University of Michigan, William Clements Library
creatorOf Wright, Elizur, 1804-1885. Richard O. Curry collection, 1822-1865. University of Connecticut, Homer Babbidge Library
creatorOf Elizur Wright Papers, 1793-1935, (bulk 1830-1885) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Wendell Phillips papers, 1555-1882 (inclusive) 1833-1881 (bulk). Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard
creatorOf Elizur Wright Letters, 1822-1843 Western Reserve Historical Society
creatorOf Goodell, William, 1792-1878. The William Goodell Family Papers 1780-1892 1820-1878 Berea College, Hutchins Library
creatorOf Wright, Elizur, 1804-1885. Elizur Wright collection, 1887-1932. Hudson Library & Historical Society
referencedIn Pickard-Whittier papers, 1815-1915. Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard
referencedIn James G. Birney papers, Birney, James G. papers, 1816-1884, 1820-1856 William L. Clements Library , University of Michigan
creatorOf Elizur Wright business papers, (inclusive), 1845-1916 Baker Library, Harvard Business School
referencedIn Correspondence and other papers, 1831-1891. Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard
creatorOf Elizur Wright publications, 1877-1931 Hudson Library & Historical Society
creatorOf Alexander, William, 1848-. Trade catalogs of insurance, [1837?]-1946. University of California, Santa Barbara, UCSB Library
creatorOf Wright, Elizur, 1804-1885. Elizur Wright publications 1877-1931 Cleveland Public Library, Main Library
creatorOf William L. Clements Library. James G. Birney papers, 1816-1884, bulk 1820-1856. University of Michigan, William Clements Library
referencedIn Cartland family papers, 1823-1913. Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard
referencedIn Charles Sumner correspondence, 1829-1874. Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard
creatorOf Whittier, John Greenleaf, 1807-1892. ALsS, 1881-1883, Danvers, [MA]. Haverford College Library
creatorOf Wright, Elizur, 1804-1885. Letter, to George Ticknor [manuscript] 1841. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Wright, Elizur, 1804-1885. Business papers, 1845-1916 (inclusive). Harvard Business School, Knowledge and Library Services/Baker Library
creatorOf Wright, Elizur, 1804-1885. Autograph verses signed "E. Wright," untitled : and apparently addressed to John Pierpont, [n.p., n.d.]. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Wright, Elizur, 1804-1885. Papers, 1837. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
creatorOf Birney, James Gillespie, 1792-1857. Letter : American Anti-Slavery Society, 1838 July 4. Brigham Young University, Harold B. Lee Library
referencedIn Letters to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1761-1904 (inclusive) 1820-1888 (bulk). Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard
creatorOf Wilson, Hiram, 1803-1864. Papers 1835-1856. Oberlin College Library
creatorOf Wright, Elizur, 1804-1885,. Letters, 1822-1843 / [compiled by] Elizur Wright, [Jr.]. Western Reserve Historical Society, Research Library
creatorOf Wright, Elizur, 1804-1885,. Letters, 1822-1843 / [compiled by] Elizur Wright, [Jr.]. Western Reserve Historical Society, Research Library
referencedIn Slavery in the United States collection, 1703-1905. American Antiquarian Society
creatorOf Wright, Elizur, 1804-1885. Letter : Boston, to William P. Fessenden, n.p., 1864 Feb. 6. Texas Christian University
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
correspondedWith Abbot, Francis Ellingwood, 1836-1903 person
correspondedWith Alcott, Louisa May, 1832-1888 person
correspondedWith Alcott, May, 1840-1879 person
associatedWith American Anti-Slavery Society. corporateBody
associatedWith American Colonization Society. corporateBody
associatedWith American Conservation Company. corporateBody
correspondedWith Bennett, De Robigne Mortimer, 1818-1882 person
correspondedWith Birney, Catherine H. person
correspondedWith Birney, James Gillespie, 1792-1857 person
correspondedWith Birney, William, 1819-1907 person
correspondedWith Blackwell, Henry Browne, 1825-1909 person
correspondedWith Burleigh, William Henry, 1812-1871 person
correspondedWith Cartland family. family
correspondedWith Chase, Salmon P. (Salmon Portland), 1808-1873 person
associatedWith Cowles, Henry, 1803-1881. person
correspondedWith Dana, Charles A. (Charles Anderson), 1819-1897 person
correspondedWith Danforth, Joshua N. (Joshua Noble) 1798-1861 person
associatedWith Fessenden, William Pitt, 1806-1869. person
correspondedWith Garrison, William Lloyd, 1805-1879 person
associatedWith Goodell, William, 1792-1878. person
correspondedWith Greeley, Horace, 1811-1872 person
correspondedWith Green, Beriah, 1795-1874 person
associatedWith Grimké family family
associatedWith Harper & Brothers, corporateBody
correspondedWith Holley, Sallie, 1818-1893 person
correspondedWith Ingersoll, Robert Green, 1833-1899 person
correspondedWith Jocelyn, Simeon Smith, 1799-1879 person
correspondedWith Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, 1807-1882 person
associatedWith Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. corporateBody
associatedWith National Liberal League. corporateBody
correspondedWith Parton, James, 1822-1891 person
correspondedWith Phelps, Amos A. (Amos Augustus), 1805-1847 person
correspondedWith Phillips, Wendell, 1811-1884 person
associatedWith Pierpont, John, 1785-1866, person
correspondedWith Rawson, Albert L. (Albert Leighton), 1829-1902 person
correspondedWith Smith, Gerrit, 1797-1874 person
correspondedWith Stanton, Henry B. (Henry Brewster), 1805-1887 person
correspondedWith Sumner, Charles, 1811-1874 person
correspondedWith Tappan, Lewis, 1788-1873 person
associatedWith Ticknor, George, 1791-1871 person
associatedWith Weld family family
associatedWith Weld family. family
correspondedWith Weld, Theodore Dwight, 1803-1895 person
associatedWith Western Reserve College (1826-1882) corporateBody
associatedWith Western Reserve College (Hudson, Ohio) corporateBody
correspondedWith Whittier, John Greenleaf, 1807-1892 person
associatedWith William L. Clements Library. corporateBody
associatedWith Wilson, Hiram, 1803-1864. person
associatedWith Wright, Clarissa. person
associatedWith Wright, Elizur, 1804-1885, person
associatedWith Wright, Ellen M. person
correspondedWith Wright family family
associatedWith Wright family. family
associatedWith Wright family. family
associatedWith Wright, James, Sir, 1716-1785. person
associatedWith Wright, Rhoda H. (Rhoda Hanmer) person
associatedWith Wright, Walter C. (Walter Channing), 1846- person
associatedWith Wrigth, Elizur, 1804-1885. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Middlesex Fells Reservation (Mass.)
United States
South Canaan (Conn.)
Boston (Mass.)
United States
Massachusetts
United States
Middlesex Fells Reservation (Mass.)
Hudson (Ohio)
Connecticut
United States
United States
Medford (Mass.)
Middlesex Fells Reservation (Mass.)
Massachusetts
Massachusetts
United States
Boston (Mass.)
Ohio
United States
Massachusetts
Subject
Insurance--State supervision
Insurance--Mathematics
Conservationists
Slavery--United States
Conservation of natural resources
Temperance
Parks--Massachusetts
Free thought
Religion
Social problems
Life insurance--United States
Antislavery movements
Parks
Life insurance--Mathematics
African Americans--Colonization
Wright family
Slavery
Life insurance--Periodicals
Antislavery movements--United States
Freemasonry
Insurance, Life--Periodicals
African Americans--History--1863-1877
Western Reserve College (Hudson, Ohio)
Life insurance
Wright, Elizur, 1804-1885
Forests and forestry--Massachusetts
Actuaries
Insurance, Life--Mathematics
Insurance
Life insurance--Statistics
Universities and colleges
Forests and forestry
Abolitionists
Tobacco use
Insurance--Massachusetts--State supervision
Occupation
Abolitionists--United States
College teachers--Ohio
Publisher
Actuaries
Reformers
Conservationists--Massachusetts
Actuaries--Massachusetts
Function

Person

Birth 1804-02-12

Death 1885-11-22

Information

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