March 29, 2010


This talk about insurance reminded me of the old plaques, or Fire Marks, that insurance companies would issue to policy holders to place on their houses to ensure that they would be protected in case of fire.

They were used in England, the U.S. and Australia in the 18th and early 19th centuries before municipal fire services were introduced. Subscribers paid for fire insurance in advance and in exchange were given embossed lead or copper plaques to display prominently.

Apparently, after the call of "Fire!" it was common that a competing fire brigade would not tend to your conflagration even if they arrived first. Sometimes competing fire brigades would fight to sign up uninsured properties while housed burned behind them. 

Pictured are a couple of American fire marks from Marie McC at the defunct Alexandria Daily Photo.


Alan Burnett said...

What an interesting post. I had forgotten all about fire marks, although you still see them in some of the older buildings in the cities over here.

Giulia said...

I'd forgotten about them, too, though I've walked past the very ones in Alexandria Daily Photo. Oooh. I was just going to write something snarky about fire insurance but will do that on my blog & leave you alone.



Diane said...

This is definitely an instance where 'competition'for municipal services just doesn't make sense.

Beautiful signage, though.