When Dr. Henry C. Martin abandoned his career in medicine, he faced new challenges in the unwieldy insurance industry of the 1850s. For twelve years he traveled the wild west as a special agent for Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee setting up new offices. Eventually he opened his own agency in Indianapolis and became Northwestern’s general agent in Indiana.

While covering the rugged territory, Dr. Martin took “rough notes” jotting down his experiences in an unregulated industry full of “wild cats”. Later, with his wife’s help, Dr. Martin started publishing the field notes in newsletters for his agents. The agents’ response was overwhelming and the newsletters became the magazine, Insurance Rough Notes in 1878. Rough Notes gave the agents what they needed most: practical information about how to sell. But just as important, Rough Notes became the “voice of reform” for the industry. Dr. Martin’s powerful editorials led to better insurance laws and fire underwriting.

Being a man of vision, Dr. Martin saw the need for standardization. He designed and creatively marketed simple, time-saving forms, ledgers and unique sales kits. By the 1890s Rough Notes, Inc. had become the “headquarters for insurance supplies”.

Today, the 137-year-old Rough Notes Company continues to equip agencies in all phases of their operations. We understand the needs of the insurance agent. With new technologies undreamed of in Dr. Martin’s time, we continue to develop innovative products and services to assist the growth of independent agencies in the next millennium.




  • Dr. Henry C. Martin founds Rough Notes in Indianapolis, Indiana while working as a general agent. The magazine begins as a newsletter to his agents under the title, The Insurance Rough Notes. He distributes the first issue on November 10th.


  • The Rough Notes Company is incorporated in Indiana.


1888 – 1890

  • Dr. Martin studies how to regulate the insurance industry. He also begins to standardize business operations in the insurance field. His editorials in RN create a “voice of reform.” His efforts lead to the improvement of insurance laws and an expansion in fire underwriting.


RN produces the first state handbook, the Indiana Insurance Directory.