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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Asa T. Spaulding, April 13, 1979. Interview C-0013-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Selling insurance to rural customers by using titles

In this brief but instructive passage, Spaulding remembers that his employer at the North Carolina Mutual insurance company told him to address sales letters using titles like "Mr." and "Mrs." When potential customers in rural areas received these solicitations, they would be flattered enough to purchase a policy.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Asa T. Spaulding, April 13, 1979. Interview C-0013-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

And you stayed there as principal how long?
One year. I think school closed in March. And I came back to Durham. See, Dr. Moore, my first summer here, took me to the office one morning. After I had done my chores around the house and had his car out in the driveway and dusted it off. He got ready to go.
You lived with him while you were here?
I lived across the street from him. But I later did live there. He said, "Why don't you go on and go with me downtown." And I went on. And he took me upstairs to the second floor of the old building. And he turned me over to John T. Merrick, who was the son of John Merrick, the founder. And he was supervisor of this particular department, department. And there was an addressograph machine sitting in the hallway with a stool. He took me there, and that was my first job. I was assigned to John T. Merrick's supervision, to cut addressograph plates, for premium notices to be sent to policy holders. I've told you this before. His first instructions to me. Now, your plates were cut from the applications for the insurance, you see: the names of the person, the date of birth, and the address. If it's a man, address it as Mr.; if it's a married woman, Mrs.; if it's a single woman, Miss. Because these people living in the country seldom get mail. And when they do get it, it's addressed as ‘John’ or ‘Joe’ or ‘Mary’ or ‘Sally’. To get a letter of premium notice from North Carolina Mutual with a title before their names will give them a feeling of dignity and of being recognized. That thing sunk in. I could see that and I knew what it meant, because I'd come from the country. And I knew this matter of calling by first names. Although, in my particular area, as far as my father was concerned, he referred to all the whites by whatever their first name was, and they called him by his first name. There was no title used between either. It was that kind of relationship. But I knew what he was saying was true. So that was my first job. And I worked with the company every summer, while I was at the National Training School. With the money I made as principal of the school that year, and coming back in March and working until September. In the meantime I had discussed where to go to college with Dr. Shepard, and he suggested Howard. So I applied to Howard in September of '24, and at the end of the first year, all my funds were exhausted. So I came on back to North Carolina Mutual and worked two years and a summer. I was an early drop out, but for reason. I took what I made in those two years and that summer. My ambition at that time was to become a CPA. I had worked through the different departments of North Carolina Mutual before going to NYU. We had, as I recall, no more than twelve or thirteen black CPAs in the country.