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 of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania issued this fire mark around 1810. This Mutual fire mark is made of cast iron, featuring a raised image of a tree in the center of an oval. The rim of the mark has been chipped. 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.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
fire mark
date made
ca 1810
maker
unknown
Physical Description
cast iron (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 12 1/2 in x 8 1/2 in; 31.75 cm x 21.59 cm
place made
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
ID Number
2005.0233.0426
accession number
2005.0233
catalog number
2005.0233.0426
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

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

Submit a comment or ask a question about this object using the form below. Submissions are moderated and may receive a curator response. Please note that we cannot evaluate or appraise your personal artifacts. For other questions or general inquiries please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.