The late 1800’s was a time of tremendous social upheaval, as farm workers left rural areas to work in cities, and immigrants left home for a life in the U.S., cutting family and community ties for a shot at the American Dream. It was also a time of rapid technological change. For example, in a relatively short time, travel evolved from horse and buggy to transcontinental railroads.
In this changing and uncertain environment, many Fraternal Benefit Societies were formed along ethnic, religious, or professional lines to provide social solidarity and a sense of common identity, and financial security through insurance products.
The Order of United Commercial Travelers of America was formed by eight traveling salesmen on January 16, 1888 in a meeting at the Neil House in Columbus, Ohio to provide a society for traveling salesmen, or commercial travelers. The new organization’s officers adopted titles similar to those of other organizations of the day. For example, Levi Pease was the first Supreme Counselor, John Fenimore was the first Supreme Junior Counselor, and Charles Flagg was the first Supreme Secretary.