If you subscribed to the Minneapolis Daily Star in 1923, you could get a year’s worth of pedestrian insurance for an extra 75 cents.
The add-on deal was just what it sounds like: insurance coverage for injuries (including fatal injuries) you might incur while walking across the street.
The offer, through the North American Accident Insurance Company of Chicago, also included coverage if an automobile struck you while you were riding a bicycle.
And you were also covered if you were hurt or killed while traveling in a motor vehicle involved in a crash with another motor vehicle. For some reason, that 75 cents would get you much bigger payouts if you were hurt in a car than if you suffered the same injury while walking or biking. The schedules below show dollar amounts for specific injuries (such as loss of one hand and one foot), first for those in motor vehicles, then for those on foot or bike.
The newspaper apparently reserved the right to publicize your windfall if you used the insurance. The published list of check recipients in early days of the program had about a dozen names, but within a couple years it ran the better part of a page. The amounts received ranged from less than $10 to more than $1,000.
(I spot-checked names on this list for separate news reports about injuries to particular insured persons, but I didn’t find any who had been pedestrians or bicyclists.)
The Star continued to carry ads for pedestrian insurance into the mid-1930s, although the emphasis shifted to insurance for motor vehicle drivers. That spanned an early segment of the automobile era when big cities like Minneapolis and newspapers like the Star and the Tribune ran campaigns highlighting deaths in traffic in the hopes of improving safety for pedestrians and others.
Just like news media outlets today, the Star tried to make the most of its subscriber rolls. When you applied, one of the questions was whether you might also be interested in a job delivering the newspaper — which would have meant a lot more crossing of streets.
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