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Fire Marks on City DwellingsAuthor: John R. Harper
(Article orginally published December 1928 by The Antiquarian)
Though long past are the days when the metal symbol of an insurance company affixed to the front of a house afforded its owner the only sure means of protection from loss by fire, these quaint marks are still occasionally found on early American dwellings and are eagerly captured by collectors when new buildings take the place of old. Used in London as far back as 1680 by the first insurance company to maintain its own fire brigade, this manner of marking insured houses was adopted in 1752 with the formation of the Philadelphia Contributionship, whose design of three hands clasped promised security to many a Quaker family. The vigilant eagle, the sheltering tree, miniature reproductions of the fire-fighters equipment-the engine, the hose, the fireplug-were some of the appropriate emblems chosen by other companies. Prominently placed, these little plates were also an added incentive to volunteer firemen, who knew that a reward awaited their efforts towards saving a house thus marked. For more than a century the custom persisted, until the organization of city fire departments obviated the necessity for separating the adequately insured from the homeowner who not afford to pay for protection.