|THE UNION ASSURANCE SOCIETY
at the 2002 Atlanta auction, I became the new owner of two related objects. The first is a
Union Assurance mark, Bulau Addendum 575-X-2, and the other is a mint copy of, "The
Union Assurance Society Bi-Centenary 1714-1914", company history. This booklet is
fascinating reading, and contains excellent pictures. Form 1714 to 1805 the company wrote
fire insurance on household goods and merchandise, and maintained its own fire
brigade. The following excerpt form page 19 is most interesting:
"The firemen also had instructions to enquire and discover what
houses were on fire and endangered, and to remove the goods therefrom. If there proved to
be no insurance with the Society they were to offer their services to the people most
exposed, to hire carts for the speedy removal of their goods to such places of safety as
the owners should direct. Bags were also provided for conveying small articles."
In other words, if the burning property did not bear the Societys fire mark, the
firemen did not just watch the fire, but acted for the public good!
It would be interesting to find if other British companies sponsored by
fire brigades had similar instructions.
As a point of interest, the Society began writing fire coverage on
buildings after 1805.
FMCA member and retired firefighter Richard Yokley has written the first and only
comprehensive look at the rich and exciting history of firefighters on television. Dick
covers them all from Rescue 8 and Emergency! to Third Watch,
including Singapores Code Red, Australias Fire, and
Englands Londons Burning. Every TV series and mini-series that has ever
been aired on any network, anywhere in the world, as well as many related documentaries,
are mentioned. TV Firefighters is a one-of-a-kind encyclopaedia, which is packed with
exclusive interviews and rare photos. It is described as a treasure trove of facts and
It can be directly purchased for $16.95 with $3.95 shipping and
handling, CA residents add $1.31 sales tax, from Black Forrest Press, 914 Nolan Way, Chula
Vista, CA 91911-2408 or by calling Black Forrest Press offices at (888) 808-5440. A
portion of the proceeds will be donated to the San Diego Blood Bank.
If you wish Dick to autograph your book, with or without your name as well, please
indicate that when you place your order.
A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME
Fire marks have many different
names and spellings in the literature. I didnt realize how many until I started to
keep records. Following is an alphabetical list of the ones that I found:
badge, device, fire mark, fire-mark, fire plate, fire-plate,
firemark, firemarker, house mark, house plate, house-plate, insurance plate,
insurance sign, insurance-sign, mark, plaque, plate, shield, tin label, tin plate, tin
WORTH ITS WEIGHT IN GOLD
Not all fire marks are worth their weight in gold. Heavier is not
necessarily better. An important characteristic of fire marks is their weight. With that
in mind, a serious collector of cast iron marks requires something to weigh their marks,
both future additions and marks already in their collection.
There are a number of FMCA members, myself included, who have purchased
fish scales at Wal-Mart. These digital scales are both accurate, compared against the post
office, and easy to carry. The thirty dollars is a worthwhile investment.
The above reference to fire
marks and following is from the "Manual: Cleveland Insurance Company of Cleveland,
Ohio: Instructions to Agents", 1869:
The advantages derived from placing signs upon every risk, cannot be
over-estimated. It not only gives notice that the owner is insured, and thus prevents a
great many incendiary fires originating through personal enmity and revenge, but brings
the name of the Company into prominence, and serves as a recommendation from the owner, by
means of which numerous risks are secured to the agent."
Thanks, again, Logan Smith for sharing
another piece of fire mark history.
WHERE TO FIND FIRE MARKS "IN SITU" (MAYBE)
Over the years I have often
recalled my first FMCA convention when one member described how, as a poor, young-married,
insurance agent with children, he would entertain his brood. On Sundays (with the company
car, since they paid for the gas) he would take his "tribe" for a drive in the
country, leaving Mom at home to rest (or do laundry, or ironing). The trips had a dual
purpose: on one hand, the family had an outing; on the other, it allowed our
"hero" to engage in his alternate passion, looking for fire marks. As a prelude
to having three, or six, pairs of eyes (depending on how large the family was at the time)
searching for "the second love of his life," he instructed everyone in early 19th
century architecture. His philosophy was "Why look in the wrong
place?" That is a very sound idea. It took me many years to gain the necessary facts.
I am going to save you younger members a long, trying search for the proper information.
My insight came is a "flash" last year, when a friend sent me a postcard from my
hometown, New Bedford, Massachusetts. The card, copies of pen and ink drawings by Arthur
Moniz of the "Arthur Moniz Gallery," Fairhaven, Mass., depicts five types of
early 19th century homes. All are located in New Bedford, as well as many
variations thereof, as the city was the home of many millionaires, whose wealth came from
whaling. I have enlarged each, and changed the layout form the postcard, in order to
provide a clearer picture of each. For those of you who live west of the Allegheny
Mountains and come east looking for fire marks, I recommend you carry this report with you
to aid in your search. GOOD LUCK. (Most of the marks have long since been removed,
so you would probably do better at flea markets.)
"FIRE MARK POLICE"
"Up for auction is
fantastic item from the 1860s era. This is a Firemark with beautiful old paint
intact. This is one of the highlights of a collection. The owner consigned it to me for
eBay. This was found over 35 years ago in the basement of a building in this fantastic
condition. The piece is up there [$699.95], but if you want the best in quality it is well
worth the money."
The above ad for a United Firemens of Philadelphia fire mark recently
appeared on eBay. I sent an email to the seller pointing that the original paint on a
United Firemens did have a red steamer. I also asked for the weight of the mark.
The mark was withdrawn soon after my email. It appears that a number of people emailed the
seller about the dubious nature of the mark. The seller apologized for the representation
of the mark explaining that the owner, who should have known, led him on.
I later found that FMCA member Charlie Severson also emailed the
I like to think that there are a number of interested FMCA members out
there who take the time to "police" some of the more egregious examples of fakes
on eBay. This is a real public service.
THIS AND THAT
Ed Tufts "British Fire Mark Reproductions" is
enclosed as a supplement to this issue. This will be extremely helpful to identify the
repros on eBay, of which there are quite a number. Click Here to view article.
Virginia Metalcrafters, the maker of those "vintage" repros sold as
antiques, reproduced fire marks from the mid 1950s to the early 1990s. They stopped making
them due to the lack of demand. Judging by eBay, the demand is there. Looks like they
didnt know how to market them. Their reproduced marks either have a casting number
or logo. The logo is a "V" and "M" with a dish like "Betty
Lamp" in the center.
Thanks to Peter Faber for the enclosed two pages of variant marks for the
Ted Lussem sent in the
following "Home" item. Its a copy of the policy masthead of The Home
Mutual Insurance Association of Iowa.
THERES NO PLACE LIKE "HOME"
Frederick, MD Crossroads of Historic America
You are cordially invited to attend the 31st annual convention of the
Fire Mark Circle of the Americas to be held September 18-21 in beautiful, historic
A full day of activities is planned for Friday. Saturdays
business meeting will conclude with a local speaker on a topic of interest
there will be a great auction Saturday afternoon.
Frederick is located about an hour from the Baltimore-Washington
International Airport and Dulles International Airport. Check with the airlines now for
the best airfares.
And for those with extra time, either before or after the convention,
nearby Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD holds many attractions.
Watch for details in a separate mailing shortly and the registration
material in early July.
2003 Convention Chair
By the time you receive this issue of the newsletter you should have
already sent in your list of firematic/insurance items to Joe Gundermann for the mid-year
sale. Whether or not there is a sale depends on the members response. Lets
hope there were enough responses to justify a sale.
2002 ATLANTA AUCTION PRICES
Item sold for:
"What in tarnation is a muster?"
According to "Mr. Webster" a
muster is a verb meaning to gather, or collect. Years ago, it was common for the local
military to assemble for training. This was referred to, "as the mustering of the
How and when did musters become a function
of the fire service?
First, firemens musters seem to be
indigenous to the eastern part of the country, particularly New England. Secondly, as time
went by and the country developed, the practice of musters expanded accordingly.
How did musters start and what precipitated
this unique form of competition?
From my research, the first appearance was
in the form of an advertisement of an engine manufactured touting the ability of his
engine to "fly" a stream over a known local icon, i. e. the local village church
When a local town became interested in
purchasing its first engine, or replacing an existing engine, inquiries were made to
builders, who, in all cases, were motivated into how powerful their engine was and
generally bragged about the steam it would create. If there was another engine locally or
nearby, a challenge would be issued to see which could send a stream over the local church
steeple. Obviously the competitive spirit of rival companies would work overtime to shame
the new engine in its performance.
I remember seeing an article in one of the
local papers of the period, recording the results of the contest between the local engine
and the new replacement.
"Our engine put a stream over the
steeple of the old South Church with ease." The local engine failed in its effort to
do so. This is a prime example of the competitiveness of the young locals to answer the
In 1844 in Amesbury, Massachusetts, twenty
hand pumped fire engines gathered to test their metal against one another for a suitable
prize a silver trumpet.
Fourteen of these engines were made by
William C. Hunneman of Roxbury, and of these, four predated suction ability, so that these
"tubs" had to be filled by bucket or a hose. There were two Lesley engines, a
Stephen Thayer, and a Moone engine, with two no shows.
Haverhill #1 came in first with a stream of
196.6 feet, while the Rapid #2 of Salem and the General Foster #7 of Danvers were tied at
There is a lack of information relative to
musters until 1849 when Bath, Maine invited five Maine engines to compete against each
other at the annual July 4th fair.
Over the next one hundred plus years the
July 4th muster has been one of the most interesting and prolonged events ever
held. The "Kennebec" of Bath won the initial muster with a stream of 156 feet.
The "Kennebec" engine was made by the William C. Hunneman Company of Roxbury,
Mass. in 1792 and was named "Experiment." In 1847 the name was changed to
Meanwhile, time took its toll on musters
and like a yo-yo, competition ran the gamut from one or two engines to a gala field day
where as many as one hundred engines pumped for the grand prize of a silver trumpet and
the bragging rights to "best of the year."
The sport found its way westward and now
there are several musters held on the West Coast. Yes, it has even become international
with hand pumps from Europe coming to America to compete against the best of the East and
In conclusion, while the rules of play may differ in other
geographical locations, and the apparatus has gone from hand pumps to modern motor
vehicles, the excitement and joy is the same. But most of all, people get to see their
engines and firemen in action.