The museum contains a large collection of fire marks. The information included here, was compiled by collections manager Bob Shea. Bob is a leading expert on American fire marks. His expertise is often sought by other museums. Bob also specializes in the early history of fire insurance, including the organization of insurance companies by volunteer firemen.
American fire marks, also known as “badges” and “house plates,” are signs issued by insurance companies that were affixed to the front of a property to mark that the property was insured for fire. Fire marks carried the symbol or the name of the insurer and were made of cast iron, sheet brass, lead, tinned sheet iron, copper or zinc. They came in various sizes and shapes, sometimes attached to a wooden plaque.
Used primarily for advertising purposes, fire marks were used from 1752 to circa 1900. Going back to their early practices, the Philadelphia Contributionship and The Baltimore Equitable Society still issue fire marks.
Alwin E. Bulau’s 1953 publication, Footprints of Assurance, is the reference for fire mark collectors, who identify fire marks by their Bulau number. The Fire Mark Circle of the Americas (FMCA) is an organization of persons interested in fire marks and other memorabilia of the early days of fire insurance and firefighting. For information, visit their website at firemarkcircle.org.