Access the Franklin and Pennsylvania Fire Insurance Companies Database

Fire insurance survey of dwelling, "west side of Truxton Street, in the rear of house no. 23 Perry Street" [318 South Fawn Street], for Charles Williams, 21 June 1834 .Franklin Fire Insurance Co. Records (policy 0: 979), Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

At the Historical Society of Pennsylvania are two 19th-century fire insurance company collections, those of the Franklin Fire Insurance Company and the Pennsylvania Fire Insurance Company. These two companies preserved large numbers of manuscript surveys of insured properties, particularly valuable in that more than two-thirds of the surveys are illustrated with dimensioned sketch plans. Their surveys describe properties mainly in the Philadelphia area, but also reach well into eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey, and in smaller numbers extending out as far north as New York, as far south as Virginia, and westward toward the Pittsburgh area.

Each property surveyed is described verbally in several paragraphs, and graphically usually in a sketch with walls represented by single-line widths, but with dimensions often noted. (The Franklin surveys more often have a ground story plan, but the Pennsylvania Company's drawn surveys, not quite as frequent, also give plans of upper stories.) What may be about half of the total number of surveys in these two collections have been entered into two on-line databasea, comprising some 28,000 records.

The older one is accessible via a BMC server, an FMPro 3.0 database running in kiosk mode on an ancient (1990s) Mac. This version of the database is searchable on any of a variety of fields, which remain abbreviated in the search interface, but a description of the fields and the rules used in data entry are linked to open in a second window that will remain available to you on your desktop as you conduct your search.

Your searches will just fielded data without images, but to see the originals at HSP you will need three bits of data in hand: a) the name of the company, b) the box or book number (or "0" for loose), and c) most critically, the policy or survey number (interchangeable for these companies). Happy hunting.

More recently, we've begun to offer a new version, working with the Athenaeum of Philadelphia and Walter Rice, Jr., to integrate this into the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings project, with the intent of begininig to integrate images of the surveys and adding to the indexed coverage, still well short of comprehensive.

Search Database via BMC server (with richly fielded searches, no images)
Search Database via Athenaeum server (with modestly fielded seaches, but a growing collection of images accessible to PAB subscribers).

Fire insurance survey of dwelling on School House Lane and Township Line Road [Wissahickon Avenue], Germantown, for E. W. Clark, 23 Dec. 1859 (resurveyed 1869), Pennsylvania Fire Insurance Co. Records (policy 26: 18901), Historical Society of Pennsylvania.


Fire insurance survey of dwelling, 1305 Locust Street for John McCrea, 16 November 1850. Franklin Fire Insurance Co. Records (policy 100: 12741, Historical Society of Pennsylvania

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