Mutual Assurance Company 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 Mutual Assurance Company for Insuring Houses from Loss by Fire this fire mark for policy number 861 to William Montgomery of 128 Arch Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1798. This Mutual fire mark consists of a leaden image of a tree painted green nailed to an oval-shaped wooden board. The policy “No. 861” can be faintly seen at the trunk of the tree. The Mutual was founded in 1784 by former policyholders of the Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire. The Philadelphia Contributionship decided that buildings with trees in front of them posed a fire hazard and would no longer be insured. Since trees were abundant in early Philadelphia, this decision created a rift in the Contributionship. The Mutual was founded to provide insurance to those members whose buildings had trees. The adoption of the “Green Tree” as the company’s fire mark was a nod to the dispute that led to the Mutual’s founding.
Currently not on view
Object Name
fire mark
date made
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
lead (overall material)
overall: 15 in x 10 1/2 in; 38.1 cm x 26.67 cm
place made
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Fire Fighting
Cultures & Communities
Firefighting Collection
Fire Marks
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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