Carl Brown, Sr.
Founder of California Casualty
He was conservative, frugal and focused on efficiencies, but dedicated
to quality and
loyal to partners.
Carl G. Brown Sr. fishes for steelhead on the Klamath River, 1928.
California Casualty founder Carl Brown was a natural salesman, affable and at ease meeting with people in all walks of life. It was probably no surprise to his colleagues when, in late 1913, as the state of California was about to change workers’ compensation law, he determined to start his own insurance company. This company, however, would be a novel form of workers’ compensation insurer, a “reciprocal exchange.” The win-win structure would ensure that workers got the fair shake they needed when injured and employers – with more incentive to keep on top of workplace safety – wouldn’t be financially gouged.
Carl achieved the partner buy-in he needed, as well as state approval, in just six weeks. On January 1, 1914, California Casualty officially opened for business.
Mr. Brown decided to start offering auto insurance in 1917, two years after the completion of the first coast-to-coast highway, a gravel, all-weather road running from New York City to San Francisco.
Other opportunities were available to him, but Carl chose to pursue his vision. The scholarly and athletic Stanford graduate was not merely driven by entrepreneurial spirit; he was a practical man and had a family to feed. He knew his idea had merit, and he was tireless in proving it.
He grew California Casualty profitably through two World Wars and the Great Depression. Employees knew and met his high expectations; they also benefited from his many quiet kindnesses. He was conservative, frugal and focused on efficiencies, but at the same time he was dedicated to quality and loyal to partners. He was known to exercise only two indulgences – a penchant for finely tailored apparel and beautiful cars. His financial acumen and foresight would lead to an unparalleled foundation for California Casualty’s future.
As much as he loved his work, Carl Brown loved the outdoors. He grew up learning to fly fish with his grandparents along the San Lorenzo River near Santa Cruz. Later he shared his passion and took the family – including wife Susan, daughter Dorothy and son Carl, Jr. – on many fly fishing expeditions and vacations to Yosemite National Park. There the 3,000-feet granite formation known as El Capitan inspired him to use it as a California Casualty emblem.