Farmers Automobile Inter-Insurance Exchange was founded by two men with different backgrounds -- John C. Tyler and Thomas E. Leavey -- but a common interest in providing quality auto insurance for farmers and ranchers.
Born in a sod hut in South Dakota, Tyler moved to Los Angeles and became a painting contractor. But he changed careers and went into the insurance business.
Leavey was born on a dairy farm in California and went east to attend Georgetown University law school. He returned to California with his law degree and went into banking.
Friends since the mid-20s, Tyler and Leavey became business partners, opening their auto insurance company in Los Angeles in 1928, just before the Great Depression hit. They went farm to farm looking for policyholders to sign up.
Their timing wasn't ideal, but farmers weathered the nation's economic woes. It was one of few insurance companies able to pay its policyholders' claims in cash rather than IOUs.
By the 1940s, Farmers had expanded into 19 states. Providing auto and truck insurance to farmers and non-farmers, Farmers became the leading auto insurance carrier in the Northwest.
In the 1960s, Farmers was the first major insurance company to offer customers a monthly payment plan that wasn't a finance plan and that didn't charge interest.
In 1988, the British American Tobacco Co. acquired Farmers Group. Ten years later, Farmers was again acquired, this time by Zurich Financial Services.
In 2007, after Farmers acquired insurer Bristol West, it added more non-standard auto policies for its customers.
In 2009, 21st Century Insurance and Financial Services, based in Wilmington, Del., became a part of the Farmers Insurance Group of Companies.
In 2005, following in its founders' commitment to the environment, Farmers became the first major insurer to offer a discount for hybrid and other alternative-fuel vehicles.
In addition to auto insurance, Farmers offers policies for collectible cars, motorcycles, and recreational vehicles including RVs, motorhomes and travel trailers, among other lines.