Philadelphia Contributionship Fire Mark

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Description (Brief)
Beginning in the 1750s, some American insurance companies issued metal fire marks to policyholders to signify that their property was insured against fire damage. The fire marks bore the name and/or symbol of the insurer, and some included the customer’s policy number. The company or agent would then affix the mark to the policyholder’s home or business. For owners the mark served as proof of insurance and a deterrent against arson. For insurance companies the mark served as a form of advertising, and alerted volunteer firefighters that the property was insured.
The Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire issued this fire mark for policy number 205 to Jonathan Zane of 46 Almond Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania around 1753. The fire mark consists of the company’s symbol cast in lead depicting four hands clasped at the wrist fastened to a square pine board. The Philadelphia Contributionship was established in 1752, becoming the first successful fire insurance company in America. Benjamin Franklin was one of its founding members. The Contributionship began as a mutual insurance company and this concept is represented by its “Hand in Hand” fire mark. The Philadelphia Contributionship is still in operation. This square board is only one of two known surviving marks from the original run of at least two hundred and fifty square boards. Subsequent marks were on shield-shaped boards.
date made
Stow, John
place made
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Physical Description
white pine (overall material)
lead (decoration material)
overall: 12 7/8 in x 12 1/4 in x 7/8 in; 32.7025 cm x 31.115 cm x 2.2225 cm
decoration: 10 1/2 in x 9 1/2 in x 1 5/8 in; 26.67 cm x 24.13 cm x 4.1275 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
Fire Fighting
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Cultures & Communities
Firefighting Collection
Fire Marks
Many Voices, One Nation
Many Voices, One Nation
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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