How Insurance Helped the U.S. Prosper: Colonial America and Benjamin Franklin : Dear Insurance Agent...
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How Insurance Helped the U.S. Prosper: Colonial America and Benjamin Franklin

by A. Montalbano on 09/07/14

Benjamin Franklin, born 1706 in Boston, and the 8th of 17 children grew to become a successful writer, printer, revolutionary, inventor, statesman, genius, and fore-father of the Declaration of Independence. Owner and publisher of the Pennsylvania Gazette, and later, "Poor Richard's Almanack", Franklin's writing skills were acquired through self-study.

Along with countless projects, Franklin developed the colonial postal system believing everyone should have access to information. 
In 1730, Philadelphia suffered a disastrous fire.  Ben wrote in the Gazette, that if people had used fire fighting instruments, the fire would not have ravaged the city as it did.  Soon after he devised a plan which would bring fire equipment from London to Philadelphia.  However, it would be 140 years (1871) before Philadelphia would create its own fire department.
Through the Gazette, Franklin printed steps on fire prevention for all readers, especially homeowners, to follow.  Even further, he formed a society of active fire fighting volunteers, called The Union Fire Company.  Eight brigades were formed throughout the city, and in 1751, Franklin called on the brigades to form insurance articles.  The articles outlined a policy format of what was acceptable for coverage and what would be ineligible.  Subscribers established The Philadelphia Contributorship for the Insuring Of Houses from Loss of Fire.  A metal fire mark affixed to houses was the seal of the Philadelphia Contributorship which noted insured buildings and houses.
The first surveyor, Samuel Rhoads, was appointed the duty of building inspector.  His job was to determine the risk.
Meanwhile, those structures covered under the plan had a policy life of 7 years.  If no fire occurred during that period, the policyholder received a refundable portion.  Ineligible structures consisted of apothecary shops, breweries, and homes with trees too close blocking access for fighting fire.
The following year, a tally was conducted: of the first 143 policies written, no fires were reported.  Since the company was a mutual insurance company and the actual fire fighters were policyholders if less damage was created to the structure, his policy premium would be discounted.
Today, the Philadelphia Contributorship remains strong and rated A+ at A.M. Best.  (

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