Philadelphia Contributionship Fire Mark

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 around 1847-1848. The fire mark consists of the company’s symbol cast in lead showing four hands clasped at the wrist attached to a shield-shaped wooden backing. The Philadelphia Contributionship was established in 1752 as the first fire insurance company in America, and included Benjamin Franklin as one of its founding members. The Contributionship was a mutual assurance company, represented by its “Hand in Hand” fire mark.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
fire mark
date made
1847-1848
maker
unknown
Physical Description
wood (board material)
lead (hands material)
Measurements
board: 15 3/8 in x 11 1/2 in x 15/16 in; 39.0525 cm x 29.21 cm x 2.38125 cm
hands: 9 3/8 in x 8 5/8 in x 15/16 in; 23.8125 cm x 21.9075 cm x 2.38125 cm
overall: wt 4 lb
place made
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
ID Number
2005.0233.0379
accession number
2005.0233
catalog number
2005.0233.0379
subject
Fire Fighting
Advertising
Work
Cultures & Communities
Firefighting Collection
Fire Marks
Insurance
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Firefighting Collection
Fire Marks
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection

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