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The Philadelphia Contributionship

A compelling collection of firefighting and fire insurance memorabilia


The Experience

An assortment of firefighting and fire protection paraphernalia, from the top hats firemen wore in the 19th century to the metal fire marks placed on insured homes, to the glamorous capes that firefighters wore for identification are displayed in a small museum in the nation’s first successful mutual fire insurance company.

The Contributionship insured most of the city’s prominent buildings from fire damage in the Colonial period. Since there were no photographs and few drawings of those buildings, the company’s insurance papers, with the carpenter’s specifications, are the primary records of that period. The Greek Revival building with Corinthian columns was designed by Thomas U. Walter, architect of the U.S. Capitol dome and wings and Philadelphia’s Girard College.


In 1752, Franklin and members of his Union Fire Company met with representatives from other brigades to form a fire insurance company: The Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insuring of Houses from Loss by Fire. Philip Syng, the silversmith who created the inkstand from which the Declaration of Independence was signed, designed the company’s metal fire mark. The company moved into its current building in 1836.

Other Information

Museum open Mon – Fri. Second floor boardrooms open by appointment only

Insider Tip

Make an appointment if you want to see the elegant Contributionship boardrooms, which are full of 19th-century period furniture.

Great Kids’ Stuff

Kids will love the decorated top hats that firefighters wore in the early 19th century before they moved on to the more practical modern helmets.

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