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 in 1799. This Mutual fire mark features a lead tree fastened to a wooden oval that has been painted red. 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. 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
date made
1799
maker
unknown
place made
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
lead (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 15 1/4 in x 11 in; 38.735 cm x 27.94 cm
ID Number
2005.0233.0574
accession number
2005.0233
catalog number
2005.0233.0574
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
subject
Fire Fighting
Insurance
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Work
Cultures & Communities
Advertising
Firefighting Collection
Fire Marks
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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