by Bill Mixon

Throughout my office are Fire Marks.  I earned them when I was a new insurance agent for Nationwide Insurance.   There was a time that if you protected over 100 new homes, in a year, you earned a fire mark with Nationwide.  My father was a loss control manager; he had a master’s degree in safety.  He was named after Benjamin Franklin and he enjoyed sharing the story behind Fire Marks.


Franklin strove to help his neighbors and the world round through philanthropy and invention, through free enterprise and mutual aide societies. Mr. Franklin was a central figure in the forming of our Nation and in scientific advancement around the world.  He was instrumental in the discovery of the properties of electricity and in that alone his heart and mind touches everyone today.


Mr. Franklin was the ‘lightning rod’ behind the first fire department in ‘the colonies’  and the first fire insurance company in the United States.  The article linked to in this post does a wonderful job discussing how this all came to be.


There was a great problem many years ago.  People used fire to heat homes and cook meals.  There were fires in many rooms of a home.  Embers were carried from room to room and house to house to start new fires. Sparks escaped fireplaces and chimneys.  Fire was a constant worry.   There were no fire departments.  There were neighborhood  ‘bucket brigades’  but often the volunteers got in the way as much as helped.


Benjamin Franklin had heard about people who were trained to fight fires in Europe.  He dreamed up a way to improve on the idea. He established a volunteer group who trained together and made sure they knew where ample water sources were and kept on hand the tools needed to fight a fire.  Now all they had to do was find a way to finance their plans.  If you arrived too late to a fire  who would pay you.  If you only saved half a home how much could you expect to be paid? Some people  refused to pay even if the group saved most of the home. The victims of the fire needed their money to replace and rebuild what was damaged.


The fire mark was born.  A small emblem was created and sold before a fire to home and business owners who wanted the firemen to put out the fire.  You placed the fire mark where it could be seen so that when the fireman arrived they knew you had prepaid for their firefighting services.


Mr. Franklin regularly thought up ways to make peoples lives better, safer, less expensive.  He produced a stove that used half as much wood and or coal to heat a home.  He was the force behind the first teaching hospital in the US, a public post office, the first pubic, lending, library. He invented the lightning rod, bifocal glasses and swim fins among many other inventions.   Mr. Franklin was also one of our Nation’s first and most successful franchisers, but that is another wonderful story.  Tune into the Christian Car Guy and see if we have time to talk about this.