Our History & Our Heritage By Bill Kiefer

Sometimes, we forget things…sometimes we never knew them. How many of us remember that the world’s greatest sales person came from East Liverpool, Ohio? I lived here for about four or five years before I ever knew that. I can remember quite clearly when I found out. I don’t remember the exact date, but I do remember that my mentor, attorney Martin S. Bogarad, and I were driving to Chester to interview a witness in a case. For some reason as we approached the Newell Toll Bridge we were having a discussion about life insurance. At that point “Marty” mentioned the name of Ben Feldman. I had no idea of whom he was speaking. I was soon informed that Ben Feldman was the most successful life insurance salesman on the planet. Looking across the river at the town, I somehow couldn’t believe this to be true, after all there could not have been more than 20,000 people in the town. Marty assured me that it was true and that Mr. Feldman had actually written books on salesmanship.
Ben Feldman was born in New York City in 1912, one of nine children in the family of Isaac and Bertha Feldman, themselves Jewish immigrants from Russia. When he was young the family relocated to Salineville in Columbiana County. Salineville itself is primarily known as the site of the battle of Salineville during the Civil War where the forces of confederate general John Hunt Morgan were defeated and Morgan himself captured. That was earlier, occurring in July 1863. While in Salineville he entered the business of selling eggs and poultry, earning $5.00 a week.
In 1942 at about the age of 30 he became an agent for New York Life a large life insurance company still in existence today. After several years, in 1946 he became a member of the “Million Dollar Roundtable.” Now New York Life was no small potatoes. Today it is the third largest life insurance company in the US and is the largest mutual life insurance company and most recently was listed as number 71 on the Fortune 500. By 1946 had had achieved membership in the Million Dollar Roundtable the insurance industry’s premier professional group. It honors premier agents who exemplify high ethics, high levels of service and have maintained certain minimum standards of productivity. He was a member of this group continuously until his death. Even today, the group is so prestigious that it only has about 70,000 members in 72 countries.
How successful was Mr. Feldman? His obituary and other sources such as the Lou Holtz Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame induction information indicate the tremendous success that he had. Sales of Life Insurance are measured by the face value of the policies sold. He produced $10,000,000 in coverage in 1955. The successive personal goals that he met were $1,000,000 a month; followed by $1,000,000 a week. In 1971 he wrote $65,000,000 in coverage. His two sons: Richard and Marvin joined the firm and by 1983 together they wrote $148,000,000 in coverage. For twenty two consecutive years Ben Feldman was the top salesman for New York Life.
While Mr. Feldman had to drop out of school at age 16. He was a life long learner. He took classes at Youngstown State University and read voraciously. At least four books were published by or about him and his remarkable success.
A brief search of the internet shows that when he passed away in November 1993, his obituary was a significant item in the New York Times, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Los Angeles Times, Tampa Bay Times, etc. Essentially his passing was national news, as was his career in these same media outlets in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Today the firm lives on in East Liverpool and Arizona through Ben’s son Marvin and Ben’s granddaughter Wendy (son Richard passed away in 2016.) Marvin works from East Liverpool and Wendy works primarily from Chandler Arizona, where she is also heavily engaged in charitable work and politics in her home town of Queen Creek Arizona population 45,000+, where she has in the past served on council and as Mayor.