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.

Description (Brief)

The Mutual Assurance Company for Insuring Houses from Loss by Fire of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, issued this fire mark for policy number 23 in 1785. This Mutual fire mark consists of a leaden image of a tree whose leaves were painted green nailed to a shield-shaped pine board that has been painted brown. The policy number is painted in gold. 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’s membership. 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.

Date Made: 1785

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: 2005.0233.0417Accession Number: 2005.0233Catalog Number: 2005.0233.0417

Object Name: fire mark

Physical Description: wood (board material)lead (tree material)Measurements: board: 16 1/4 in x 12 1/2 in; 41.275 cm x 31.75 cmtree: 11 1/2 in x 8 3/4 in; 29.21 cm x 22.225 cm


Record Id: nmah_1341875

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