Take a few moments to explore our collection.
PFD Historian Jack Wright discusses the fire alarm box system that dates back to 1856.
Our curator, Firefighter Brian Anderson gives us a tour of the Blue Room. This room contains a colorful comic book strip explaining fire prevention. The room is also interactive, kids can try on firefighter gear.
Our apparatus floor houses our collection of rolling stock, from horse drawn equipment to motorized engines. Take a virtual tour of the floor and learn more about our collection as our historian, Jack Wright, discusses the collection.
On the second floor of the museum, you’ll find our beautiful memorial wall.
A large stained glass window memorial to Philadelphia firefighters who died in the line of duty.
Fire Truck Model Builder John Digiesi talks about his work creating models of the Philadelphia Fire Department’s apparatus.
The museum houses a collection of important fire marks.
Firemen’s Insurance Company
1825 – 1904
Cast iron fire mark
Originally owned and managed by the active and honorary volunteer firemen and the individual fire companies of Baltimore, the fire mark of the Firemen’s Insurance Company depicts a Philadelphia-style, double-decker end stroke hand engine used by the firemen in Baltimore at the time. This circular mark, whose engine was gold gilded, was one of the largest made in America and available to the policyholder for a one-time charge of $1.25 as long as the insurance was continued. If canceled, the mark was returned to the company.
Fire Department Insurance Company
1837 – ca 1848
Fire mark; cast iron
In 1837 the volunteer firemen in Cincinnati organized a fire insurance company named the Fire Department Insurance Company. They issued a fire mark of which depicted a Philadelphia-style, double-decker end stroke hand engine. No doubt the fire mark was issued to advertise their new company which was in competition with the Firemen’s Insurance Company of Cincinnati.
Baltimore Equitable Society
1784 – Present
Fire mark: cast iron
Circa 1927 this is the fifth style of fire mark issued by the company and shows the clasped hands symbolizing mutuality and the year of organization. The company still issues these marks, now made of aluminum. The bright gold hands and numbers on a black background may be seen on many homes throughout the Baltimore area.
City Insurance Company
1849 – 1866
Fire mark: cast iron
The hand fire engine depicted is unusual because the brakes move horizontally with the men seated, instead of moving up and down with the men standing. Instead of pumping, they rowed. Hence, the nickname “Row Boat.” While six men are depicted on the mark, there would actually be twenty-four. The first rowboat engine was made in 1847 by D. L. Farnam for the Independence Fire Company #3, Cincinnati, Ohio. Overall, Cincinnati purchased at least nine such engines. With the development of the steam fire engine in 1853, also in Cincinnati, the rowboat engine passed into history. –Bob Shea
United Firemen’s Insurance Company
1860 – 1956
Cast iron fire mark with policy #3339; issued April 5, 1872
The Fire Association of Philadelphia managed an insurance company bearing the same name. Not all fire engine, hose and ladder companies were able to join the Association due to the prohibitive entrance fee. Also, non-members did not receive any monetary assistance from the Association even though they fought fires and protected the city as much as the member companies. Because of this disadvantage, the non-member companies on August 2, 1860 chartered a new company named the United Firemen’s Insurance Company of Philadelphia. This new company issued a fire mark depicting a steam fire engine which was the latest in technology in the fight against fire. —Bob Shea
The INA Eagle
Insurance Company of North America
1792 – Present
Copper fire mark; facsimile issued by the company circa 1930’s. In 1796 Claudius LeGrand designed the patriotic symbol of an eagle taking flight from a rock for the Insurance Company of North America. The eagle fire mark symbol, also used on its policy, was originally lead on wood and adopted for a copper plate after 1800. —Bob Shea
The Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire
1752 – Present
Fire mark: Lead hands mounted on a wood board With Benjamin Franklin and volunteer firemen as principal organizers of the city’s first insurance company in 1752, the symbol of the four crossed hands on wood suggested both the idea of mutual support and the company’s relationship with the volunteer fire companies. In the event of fire, it was thought that the company’s badge, or mark, would enlist the assistance of fellow mutual policyholders who shared equally in losses and the four-handed fireman’s carry would remind the volunteer fire companies that fellow volunteers were policyholders. In addition, gilded hands on a black painted board served as advertising for the new insurance company. —Bob Shea
Planning a visit to the museum? Learn more while you are with us!
We have historical/archive services
Looking for historical information about Philadelphia firefighters or fire stations, or other information about the Philadelphia Fire Department?
We can help. We will be glad to research the files and find the information you need. Visit our gift store to purchase a request for research.
Archival information is also available through the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries.