The History of J.C. Taylor
How it all began
In the latter part of the 1920s, Upper Darby, located directly west of the Philadelphia city line, was one of the most rapidly growing townships in the state of Pennsylvania. The century long boom of the region’s textile industries, starting as early as the 1840s, gave the township of Upper Darby a major boost in commerce, employment, and overall quality of life for its residents. It was also during these times that Joseph Charles Taylor, a resident of Upper Darby Township himself, began running his real estate business, starting in 1928.
After almost a decade of running his real estate business, Joseph Taylor decided to supplement his income by expanding his operations to also include personal lines of insurance (home, auto) along with business insurance. He would open his office and run it out of 55 Long Lane in Upper Darby. During this period of expanding the scope of his business, Mr. Taylor was also on the company boards of many businesses which, in turn, allowed him to make a vast network of professional connections throughout the region of Philadelphia. As a result of this, he was able to establish a commercial book of business, insuring transportation, gas, and utility companies, along with large contractors. On July 23, 1947, he officially registered it as an operating business entity called “J.C. Taylor Company”.
Joseph Taylor continued to expand his successful business into the middle of the 1950s, but by that time he had decided to sell the company, first splitting it into two parts. A local businesswoman bought the real estate side of the business, keeping the original name “J.C. Taylor Company” in the process, which she continued to run on her own until she retired in 1993. The other piece of the company holding all of the insurance business was sold to two local businessmen, Albert Hall and Robert Hamel, who decided to call their company “J.C. Taylor Inc.” They continued to run the insurance business created by Mr. Taylor going forward. In 1962, at the age of 61, Joseph Charles Taylor would pass away at his home in Haverford, PA.
The Birth of specialty auto insurance
By the early 1960s, J.C. Taylor had already forged a solid relationship with the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA), which has its headquarters located in Hershey, PA. Prior to insuring the antique automobiles, J.C. Taylor handled the AACA’s commercial insurance, offering liability coverage for all club operations, car shows, clubhouse activities, and national events. The AACA’s 35,000 plus members in the mid 1960s spanned the entire country and they were constantly holding both local and national car shows along with multi-state tours and caravans. Not only did this partnership present a natural progression into eventually offering antique auto insurance to its members, it has continued to allow J.C. Taylor to form a decades-long bond with the AACA that lasts to this day.
It was also during the early part of the 1960s that the members of the AACA began planting the seeds of what is today commonly known as specialty auto insurance. Vehicles like Model T’s and Model A’s were already considered “antique”, but more and more of the expensive cars from the 1930s and 1940s were also becoming antique as each year passed. Insuring these vehicles at normal rates was becoming very expensive for their owners. The members of the AACA felt that, from an insurance standpoint, all cars were not created equal. They believed those who drove their collector vehicles on a limited basis and took the extra steps to protect them should be rewarded with a reduced rate. This concept was eventually presented to the Zurich Insurance company and subsequently established as an offering. Interestingly, to avoid the cash value depreciation that most cars experience over time, Zurich offered an inland marine contract to avoid this depreciation and preserve the value of the vehicle. A separate liability contract was also included with each policy.
A changing of the guard
As J.C. Taylor Insurance began offering antique auto insurance through Zurich to their personal lines customers, Hall and Hamel quickly realized they needed to devote more resources to truly specialize in this area and capitalize on what looked to be an emerging market. By the mid 1960s, they sought to find someone who could run this aspect of the business, and they needed this to happen sooner rather than later. As luck would have it, during this time National Union Insurance Company merged with AIG, causing their Philadelphia office to close. Because of the merge, one of the branch managers at National Union would find himself out of a job. His name was Robert P. Wallace. Because of the many connections that J.C. Taylor Insurance had made throughout the years, Albert Hall and Robert Hamel already knew Mr. Wallace and offered him the job to run the antique insurance side of their business. He was specifically hired because of his deep knowledge of the insurance industry.
At the onset, J.C. Taylor’s antique auto insurance book of business was relatively small. The majority of customers lived locally in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, although in later years the program would expand to include the rest of the continental United States. In 1968, Robert Hamel had decided to retire and sell his 50% share of the business to Robert Wallace and Ed Deegan, with Albert Hall keeping his share of the other half. Within six months of this new arrangement, Albert Hall died unexpectedly, leaving Robert Wallace and Ed Deegan as the new owners of J.C. Taylor Insurance.
Into the middle of the 1970s, J.C. Taylor’s book of business was beginning to slowly grow. Mr. Wallace decided it was time to ask his eldest son, Robert E. Wallace, to join him. Bob Wallace had spent the previous few years both teaching at a high school and coaching football. He would initially spend his early years at J.C. Taylor expanding his knowledgebase of the insurance industry from the commercial side. As the beginning of the 1980s approached, J.C. Taylor finally received the boost that they had been waiting for: the availability of cars that were eligible for antique insurance due to the exponential increase in car production in the post war 1950s and 1960s. It was during this period when J.C. Taylor’s program really began to skyrocket.
Of course much of J.C. Taylor’s success had roots planted back into the early 1970s when car shows, both local and national, began to take off in popularity. The AACA Eastern Fall Meet in Hershey, PA had grown to one of the largest shows in the country, and starting in the early 1970s, they were there with a booth, meeting their customers face to face. J.C. Taylor was the first insurance company to set up a booth at the Hershey Fall Meet. This was also true with the Fall Carlisle show which preceded Hershey the week before each year. Geographically speaking, having their business located in Southeastern Pennsylvania certainly helped J.C. Taylor become a constant fixture at these shows, but ask any longtime customer and they’ll tell you it was the connection with their customers that drove the success of the company the most. To this day, attendees at car shows still walk around carrying J.C. Taylor bags to hold their belongings, something J.C. Taylor starting handing out in the early 1970s before anyone else did. Through the support of businesses like J.C. Taylor, interest in car shows have grown exponentially and can now be found all around the country, every weekend of the year.
By 1983, Robert P. Wallace had purchased the remaining shares of the business from Ed Deegan to become J.C Taylor’s first sole owner since Joseph Charles Taylor. The company had become the world’s largest underwriter of specialty auto insurance, reaching maturity and profitability. Growth was modest until the turn of the century, with the company now insuring modified and street rod vehicles as well. When he passed away in 1996, Mr. Wallace left his business to the Wallace family, with his son Robert E. Wallace taking over as president, where he still presides to this day.
J.C. Taylor continues to be the official insurer of the Antique Automobile Club of America and one of the few companies who insure national car clubs such as the Model A Ford Club of America, The Veterans Car Club of America, Model T Ford Club International, and the Classic Thunderbird Club.