Remarkable as it may seem, South Carolina’s oldest independent insurance agency, C.T. Lowndes & Co., is celebrating its 160th anniversary this year. Started in 1850 by Charles T. Lowndes, the agency has survived the Civil War, Reconstruction, several fires in the 1800s, numerous hurricanes, a major earthquake, two world wars, the Great Depression and the recession of 2008-2010. Despite the hardships and changes, C.T. Lowndes maintains ownership by the fifth generation of the Lowndes family, and has grown from one location in Charleston and five staff members to eight locations in South Carolina and about 90 employees.

The agency began in an era of no electricity, telephones, indoor plumbing or fast transportation. Charles Lowndes used a quill pen and inkwell to write policies, and if he needed a copy of the letter, he would have to write the letter again. The company still has a few policies from the 1860s, which provided for loss against one peril–fire. Earthquake insurance was not available until 1916, and wind insurance came later. The policies were written on large paper and folded with the policy conditions on one side.

Henry H. Lowndes Jr., current owner and CEO and great-great-great-great nephew of Charles Lowndes, remembers when he began working with his father and brother in the family business after serving as an officer aboard a destroyer for three years during the Vietnam War.

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