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 Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire issued this fire mark around 1817. 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.
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