United Firemen's Insurance 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 United Firemen’s Insurance Company issued this fire mark around 1865. The oval cast iron mark features a central image of a steam-powered fire engine in relief, flanked by the initials “UF” painted gold. Holes for mounting exist on both the sides and top of the mark. The mark has a beveled edge, and trace parts of the engine are painted gold. The United Firemen's Insurance Company was incorporated in 1860 by a group of 28 engine and hose companies that were not part of the Fire Association of Philadelphia. Since the Fire Association did not pay dividends to companies that were not members, these twenty-eight companies formed the new United Firemen's Insurance Company of Philadelphia to profit from the insurance business. Steam fire engines were a new technology in 1860, and the UFI's use of a steamer on its fire mark shows a desire to be associated with the latest innovations in firefighting and prevention.
Currently not on view
Object Name
fire mark
date made
ca 1865
Physical Description
cast iron (overall material)
overall: 9 1/4 in x 12 in; 23.495 cm x 30.48 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

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Selected comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about the history, rarity, or value of your personal artifacts.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

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

Enter the characters shown in the image.