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.

Description (Brief)

The Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire issued this fire mark around 1776 to a house located in Jura Court in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 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, becoming the first successful fire insurance company in America. Benjamin Franklin was one of its founding members. The Contributionship began as a mutual insurance company and this concept is represented by its “Hand in Hand” fire mark. The Philadelphia Contributionship is still in operation.

Date Made: ca 1776

Maker: unknown

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Subject: Insurance


See more items in: Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement, Cultures & Communities, Advertising, Work, Firefighting Collection, Fire Marks


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 2005.0233.0357Accession Number: 2005.0233Catalog Number: 2005.0233.0357

Object Name: fire mark

Physical Description: wood (overall material)lead (overall material)Measurements: board: 14 1/2 in x 11 3/16 in x 3/4 in; 36.83 cm x 28.41625 cm x 1.905 cmhands: 9 1/8 in x 7 3/4 in x 7/8 in; 23.1775 cm x 19.685 cm x 2.2225 cmoverall: wt 55 oz


Record Id: nmah_1341482

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.