Today, the Pennsylvania Association of notaries celebrates its 66th anniversary. PAN was the first notary public association in the country, established in 1955. We would like to reflect on how PAN began with two brothers, a free pamphlet, and an old recipe box.
Two brothers, Earle and Sam Aronson, ran an insurance agency, E. R. Munro and Company, in Pittsburgh, PA. They executed several surety bonds, including 10 percent of the notary bonds in Allegheny County. Until the law changed in 1953, notaries were only appointed to serve in particular counties, not states. People would often have a lot of questions about their powers, duties, and limitations as a notary. There was no reliable source to help notaries, even though the notary public law was revised in 1949 and rewritten in 1953.
The Aronsons decided to help the people themselves by writing a pamphlet that addressed some of the problems that arose in the everyday business of the notary. The Practical Guide for Notaries Public in Pennsylvania was printed in 1946 and distributed as part of their insurance and surety direct mail ads. At the time, the pamphlet only cost pennies to print and send out with their advertisements.
Competitors convinced the state that the brothers were violating certain insurance regulations by including the pamphlet with insurance advertising. The rules specified that nothing over one dollar in value could be given away for free. This false perception helped the brothers come up with an amazing idea for the pamphlet: they could sell it. Why couldn’t they offer the bond, an information service, notary equipment, and the pamphlet all in one package? From there, PAN was officially born on January 11, 1955.
The first membership package included dues, bond, the Practical Guide for Notaries Public in Pennsylvania, and a newsletter. The public responded immediately, and they began receiving orders right away. Earle borrowed a recipe box from his wife and filled it with 100 responses from the public. His wife never got the recipe box back, it is still in the Association’s building to this day.
Notaries that were purchasing PAN’s services began recommending the Association to their coworkers and businesses began to notice the benefits of having an expert to consult when their notaries needed answers. The association gained 715 members in the first year.
As time went on, the Association began offering other services such as classes offered by mail order or night school, Errors and Omissions Insurance, and a manual to help notaries with motor vehicle and driver licensing forms. The Association even began making their own notary equipment in-house, which is still the case today.
Earle and Sam have since passed on, but two of Sam’s sons, Marc and Tod, continue to follow their philosophy today. “Focus on the notary. Offer the best service, the best product, and the best prices.”
We are honored to have been able to serve notaries and the public in Pennsylvania for so many years.