2022 Annual Convention - Gettysburg, PA
Join us in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, beginning on Thursday, September 29th, for the 2022 Fire Mark Circle of the Americas Annual Convention.
Reservations need to be in soon - so be sure to join us!
The Circle is an organization of people interested in fire marks and other reminders of the early days of insurance. The object is to bring together people interested in the origin and history of insurance companies, their fire marks, fire brigades and fire fighting equipment, firemen's badges, medals and tokens, old insurance company signs and all that pertains to the past of insurance... for the purpose of exchanging, recording information, and for the preservation of relics of the early days of insurance.
American Fire Marks - A Good Story
Everyone loves a good story, and the accepted narrative of modern literature on American fire marks contains one or more of the following ideas to enliven the story:
- The volunteer fire company would not fight a fire unless there was a fire mark on the burning building.
- A fire mark was a guarantee that the first volunteer fire company to fight the fire would receive a reward from the insurance company whose fire mark was on the burning building.
- The use of fire marks diminished because of the institution of paid municipal fire departments.
Like most stories, the above points are more fiction than fact - more hype than history. What are the facts, and what was the purpose of fire marks in America?
Fire Mark Reproductions
Things to Look For
Metals— Many reproductions have been made since the late 1920's and are of cast iron or aluminum. Some cast brass repros were made. Look for the wrong metals.
- Brass: There are no cast brass fire marks, only impressed sheet brass. Examples: Fire Association, BU# 91 & Eagle # 240 (Bulau shows copper). Old brass is yellow colored. Modern brass is yellow with a red tint.
- Aluminum: Light weight. Not used extensively until after the 1890's. No old marks were made of aluminum. Note that BU# 420, Hicksville, LI., is not a fire mark. It's a fire chiefs car emblem.
- Cast Iron
Marking Cast Iron Fire Marks
Over forty different fire insurance companies throughout the United States issued cast iron fire marks from 1804 to 1904. These cast iron fire marks are more than insurance collectibles; some are works of art in their own right and representative of 19th century technology. While much has been written about fire insurance and the early insurance companies, very little has been written about the production of the fire marks themselves. It is the purpose of this article to give the reader an understanding of the craftsOver forty different fire insurance companies throughout the United States issued cast iron firemanship involved in their production and, hopefully, a deeper appreciation of the mark itself.