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On the wall of my office in Atlanta is a foot-long wooden shield on which are four leaden hands in the form of a firemen’s carry and the date “1752″ beneath them. In some office file drawer in Philadelphia is a document I signed many years ago, agreeing never to bring that shield into the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. On the back of the wooden shield is stamped the words “Policy No.” The shield, with its leaden hands and date, represents an unissued fire insurance policy from the Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insuring of Houses from Loss by Fire. 

That insurer was founded by Benjamin Franklin and other Philadelphia notables in 1752 as the first fire insurance company in America. In August of 1967 the first claim I ever settled as a new adjuster in Philadelphia was a dog bite claim under a homeowners’ policy issued by the Philadelphia Contributionship. As far as I know, the firm is still in business. How I came by the shield in the early 1970s while in Miami is another story, but the short version is that my brother was an insurance executive in Pennsylvania at the time.

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