Philadelphia Contributionship

Coordinates: 39°56′49″N 75°08′54″W / 39.946825°N 75.148249°W / 39.946825; -75.148249
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Philadelphia Contributionship
Philadelphia Contributionship is located in Philadelphia
Philadelphia Contributionship
Philadelphia Contributionship is located in Pennsylvania
Philadelphia Contributionship
Philadelphia Contributionship is located in the United States
Philadelphia Contributionship
Location212 S. 4th Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Coordinates39°56′49″N 75°08′54″W / 39.946825°N 75.148249°W / 39.946825; -75.148249
ArchitectThomas U. Walter
Collins and Autenreith[1]
Architectural styleGreek Revival[1]
NRHP reference No.71000732
Significant dates
Added to NRHPMay 27, 1971[3]
Designated NHLDecember 22, 1977[4]
Designated PHMCDecember 17, 1954[2]
Philadelphia Contributionship Historical Marker at 212 S 4th St Philadelphia PA

The Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire is the oldest property insurance company in the United States. It was organized by Benjamin Franklin in 1752 and incorporated in 1768.[1][5]

The Contributionship's building, at 212 S. 4th Street between Walnut and Locust Streets in the Society Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, was built in 1835-36 and was designed by Thomas U. Walter in the Greek Revival style, with Corinthian columns. The portico was replaced in 1866 by Collins and Autenreith, who also expanded the living quarters on the top two floors by adding a mansard roof. A marble cornice between the third and fourth floors was also added.[1] The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977.[4][6]


The Philadelphia Contributionship was founded in 1752, largely through the efforts of Benjamin Franklin. It was structured as a mutual insurance organization, providing fire insurance to a limited area in and around Philadelphia. It introduced several key principles that underpin modern insurance techniques, including inspecting properties to be insured and setting rates based on a risk assessment. Buildings not constructed to specified standards were rejected for coverage, and rates could be raised for unsafe living practices, such as storing combustible materials in wooden buildings. The company was also the first to establish a financial reserve to pay claims.[6]

Franklin's newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette, first began to advertise the upcoming (April 13, 1752) organizational meeting in its issue of February 18, with a notice that "All persons inclined to subscribe to the articles of insurance of houses from fire, in or near this city, are desired to appear at the Court-house, where attendance will be given, to take in their subscriptions, every seventh day of the week, in the afternoon, until the 13th of April next, being the day appointed by the said articles for electing twelve directors and a treasurer." [7][8]

The company directors first met in taverns and other public meeting spaces, with larger organizational meetings at the courthouse. Its directors finally purchased land for a permanent headquarters in 1835. Although the company has not innovated in insurance practices since its early days, it continues functioning as an insurer in Philadelphia.[6]

Early directors[edit]

Notable early directors of the company included:
Name Occupation
William Coleman judge
Benjamin Franklin printer
Samuel Rhoads architect / master carpenter
Philip Syng silversmith

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d Gallery, John Andrew, ed. (2004), Philadelphia Architecture: A Guide to the City (2nd ed.), Philadelphia: Foundation for Architecture, ISBN 0962290815, p.50
  2. ^ "PHMC Historical Markers". Historical Marker Database. Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission. Archived from the original on December 7, 2013. Retrieved December 10, 2013.
  3. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
  4. ^ a b "Philadelphia Contributionship". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved February 17, 2008.
  5. ^ "Key events in the history of Contributionship". The Contributionship Companies. Archived from the original on February 5, 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2008.
  6. ^ a b c George R. Adams (May 1977). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Philadelphia Contributionship" (pdf). National Park Service. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help) and Accompanying 9 photos, exterior and interior, from 1972 and 1977 (32 KB)
  7. ^ The Pennsylvania Gazette, February 18, 1752, p2
  8. ^ The Pennsylvania Gazette, March 17, 1752, p2

External links[edit]