Saturday, April 23, 2011

A new treasure

Look at what I found 
at a flea market last weekend.

This old cast iron plaque was sitting on a table 
outside next to two other similar plaques.
I don't know why, but the
rusty old tree appealed to me. (It's about 12" tall.)

The dealer told me it was an old fire mark plaque. 
(Which meant absolutely nothing to me!)

An old one from London, dated c. 1700.

 He told me that starting in the 1700's,  
home and business owners 
would pay their local firehouse
for fire insurance, and in return 
they would receive a fire mark plaque 
to hang on the outside of their building. 

If their building were to catch on fire, 
they could be assured that they would receive help 
to put out the flames. It was also a form of advertising for
the fire company, but you did not have to have a plaque
to receive assistance should you have a fire.
(This was not the case in England!)

 William Penn Fire mark from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, c. 1851.

This practice started in London in 1680 
and had caught on in the U.S. in the early 1700's.

By the late 1780's, the fire mark had run its course.
However, today in Maryland, the Baltimore Equitable Society still keeps the tradition alive.

Late eighteenth-century fire mark of the Philadelphia Contributionship. 

Dated 1684 this is the oldest American fire mark from Charleston, SC.

This green tree design was made for 
the Mutual Assurance Company of Philadelphia 
and dates back to the mid to late 1700's.

There are several versions of the tree fire mark , 
and the one I found appears to be made around 1805.
He told me it was not a reproduction,
and I tend to believe him based 
on the finish and the rusty patina. 
I could be wrong! 

This is the back side of the marker.

(There are two reproductions  shown below
and you can see the difference.)

A reproduction, very pretty but not old. (thedecoratedtree,

This an iron reproduction, it has a flat filled-in back.

 The original name of the farm that we live on 
was called Evergrove Farm. The tree image works
with the name, don't you think?

 I almost didn't buy it, 
but my dear friend who was with me 
(pondering the purchase for 30 minutes or so) 
was my voice of reason. 
She said, "is this one of those things 
that you are going to kick yourself later for not buying?"  
(I nodded and smiled.)
She and I have been antiquing together for years 
and she knows I have many regrets! 

So glad I went back and it was still there waiting.

My sweet hubby just hung it so I could put it on the blog, he said. :)

Tell there something 
you look back on 
from a sale, auction, or flea market 
that you didn't buy 
and still to this day regret???? 

Tell me about it! 
I would love to hear.


Blondie's Journal said...

I think the plaque is really original and it looks great hanging by your door. What an amazing history behind it! I'm glad you bought it. No regrets! ;-D

Happy Easter, Alison!


Content in a Cottage said...

Very nice find and I'm glad it waited for you.

Have a nice Easter.


The Cranky Queen said...

I love the tree plaque. My husband collects vintage fire items & sell State Farm Insurance also! Never seen one of the plaques & I really appreciated the history and definitions that you gave...
The one thing that I regret not buying was an original piece of Folk Art from an old French Quarter artist, Al Tapley at the Atlanta Folk Art Festival...Thanx for sharing. Tiff from The Cranky Queen

Pamela Gordon said...

What an interesting find. Thanks for sharing the history of this item. I think it's perfect for your home. Pamela

Susan said...

I'm so glad your friend knows you so well! I, too, would have regretted not going back after this beauty! I love it!
Have a Blessed Easter!

High Street Cottage said...

Hi Allison, I have to say every time I visit I learn something new!
Yes, I've regretted things, and the most recent was a beautiful vintage birdcage sitting on the curb, it happened to be sitting on the curb of a co- worker's apt. building, so I got shy and would not get out to pick it up, my husband went back for it, but it was long gone, and later I googled and found it was worth around $800 yep! It wasn't the money, though, it was just soooo beautiful! Lesson learned!, tami

Kim @ Savvy Southern Style said...

That is very interesting, Alison. I have never heard of those. Great piece.

Sarah said...

Alison, what a unique treasure! Thanks for sharing the info on these fire marks. This is all new to me. Glad you now have it. Regrets, yes, I've had a few. One was a great pig weather vane in a shop in the English countryside. Great price, fabulous piece, but couldn't decide how I'd get it home. I should have bought it and figured that out later. There is always a solution! ;-)
Thanks for sharing this! ~ Sarah

Karen said...

That is so interesting. I never knew such a thing existed. It really has a beautiful patina and the tree is so beautiful. It looks great in the spot you chose. I'm glad it was waiting for you.

Olive Cooper said...

It is a great piece and I love old rusty objects especially. About twenty years ago I went to very upscale house for a yard sale and they has a butcher block island that was well used but solid for one hundred dollars. To buy it today would be many thousand dollars. I regret that a lot. But I was a very poor RN at the time and did not have the money. Happy Easter. ♥olive

Karen said...

I love this find! Never heard of them, and what a unique story behind it. I have always loved trees.. this would really appeal to me, don't think I would walk past it either.

Linda said...

What a great find Alison. Love it!

waveney said...

Usually when I see something I love , if I can aford it I purchase, but sometimes if I am undesided, usually due to lack of space and the seller offers NO discount..... I pass. Its not so much the money its the phycology that they just don't get.!!! Mark it up 10% and offer a 10% discount. Everyone leaves happy and a little encouragement can make the deal. Last week I bought a fabulous 1870 victorian needlepoint 36 x44 LARGE. I saw it a year ago and passed, the dealer came down 200$ but I didn't have the space. It was two Scottish lovers a dog and sheep and a rider on a pony in the background. This year the price was the same but after a year of obsessing over it I made the plunge....Its not in a perfect space but I have no regrets!

Anonymous said...

I have heard of fire mark plaques. This one is absolutely wonderful. You are right, it's perfect for your home.

Designs By Pinky said...

Thank you for the lesson on fire marks! I ahd never heard of them before. I love the one you got and think it is perfect! Hope you had a happt Easter! XO, Pinky

afternoon tea said...

I think it's a perfect match for your farm. I'm glad you bought it, I always ask myself that question "am I going to regret not buying this?". Thanks for sharing your research with us, I had never heard any of that before.

Boho Farm and Home said...

What a treat!!! there are so many antique "fish" that have gotten away through the years...I have really tries to be better about just getting it and have been happy more that sad with my purchases...I am learning to trust my gut. You have a good friend who speaks sense to you-keep her close. :) Have a great week!

Sherry @ No Minimalist Here said...

Hi Alison, I saw similar plaques on homes in London. A local also told me they were proof of fire insurance. What a great piece you found!

The item I regret not buying was a beautiful Italian Faience vase for sale on Ebay. I bid on it but as the price went higher I got cold feet. It sold for $5.00 more than my bid!! I could have kicked myself.

Upscale Downhome said...

Thirteen years ago we were shopping for a harvest table for our kitchen. We found two wonderful ones at a local antique store and could only afford to purchase one. Thirteen years later my husband and I still remember that table with traces of its original red and black paint, big chunky legs and could seat 10. I know what you mean....glad you got your plaque.

Janette - The2Seasons said...

I bought one of these for my mother-in-law about 35 years ago. I love how they were designed for a practical job, but were pretty at the same time.

Town and Country Gals said...

I love the simplicity of the tree plaque. It looks wonderful by your front door! I have seen them, we actually had one in our shop, brought in by one of our dealers. It was very ornate but beautiful.
I have regrets, just this weekend at the flea, I passed up a adorable riding hat and a fab iron gate! You would think that lesson would have been learned by now!

Glenna said...

Love it!

lisa said...

alison--i absolutely love this plackard!!! what a fabulous find. i can't believe you needed a flea-pal to talk you through this transaction...i have no stories of "the one that got away" because i just buy is too short!! you got a great one, and it looks fantastic on your porch! best, lisa-the frenchman's wife

Sue said...

Hi Alison ~
You did get a treasure, and thanks for sharing the history of fire marks.
I do know first hand the regret of not buying something, then going back for it and it's gone! The one thing in particular that I remember is an old ferris wheel. I think it was a planter, and I have seen others, but this was such a perfect size, smaller than most and I didn't buy it because I wasn't sure what to do with it!! I have thought of a million ways to use it since, but of course when I went back the very next day it was gone.
I'd love it if you'd follow me!
Have a great day ~

michele at hellolovelyinc said...

this is an incredible find! looks perfect where you've placed it. i try to only buy things i can't live without (ummm. this leaves things WIDE OPEN...) and this works for me. i also am not a regrets kinda girl--thanks for raising my awareness of this today!



Designs on 47th Street said...

I would definitely say the tree is authenic. I loved reading what you were told about the fire plaque and the tree seems to be very fitting for your property. I am quite sure there have been things I've passed up and then regretted not buying...I'll have to give it some thought and let you know. :)

lvroftiques said...

Alison what a wonderful score! And it's original I'm 99.9% sure *winks* How sweet of your hubby to put it up so quickly. I have to hound my hubbs for at least a week to get him to tackle the "honey do" LOL!
My list of things that got away is longggggggg. I'll start with a set of 4 INCREDIBLE french 18th century chairs (4 for $200) that I passed on because I was on vaca and the hubbs said it would be too much bother and expense to ship. I whined so much and so long that he called a shipping company. Turned out the cost wasn't too bad so back to the shop we rushed and they were already SOLD. I harangued my husband about it so much I finally had to stop or he might divorce me! (just kidding...sort of)*winks* I've dreamed about chairs like those ever since and have never seen their like. *sobs* Vanna