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timeline: 1752
citizen ben
Franklin montagenetworkerfirefighterfounding fatherportrait: young Franklin
Franklin montageabolitionistinsurance ben-efactorportrait: young Franklin
Franklin montageinsurance benefactor
Franklin montage
drawing: Fire Insurance Company of North America banner
Franklin's Legacy: Fire Insurance Company of North America
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Benjamin Franklin was one of the early proponents of mutual insurance. In 1751, Franklin and his Union Fire Company met with other Philadelphia fire-fighting companies to discuss the formation of a fire insurance company. Out of those discussions, the Philadelphia Contributionship was formed, which was the first successful fire insurance company in the colonies. About seventy Philadelphians initially subscribed to the contributionship. In May 1752, the board of directors, of which Franklin was a member, decided to form an insurance company. Members agreed to make equal payments to the contributionship, which would be used to pay for losses any member would sustain through fire to his property.

The first policies had a term of seven years. After the policies expired, the premium money was returned to the policyholders. In the first year of operation, 143 policies were written. Ironically, there wasn't a single insured property that caught fire in the Philadelphia Contributionship's first year of operation.

Franklin also proposed other forms of insurance, including life insurance and annuities. In his Silence Dogood letters, he recommended insurance for widows and orphans, much like a current-day pension. Late in life, he also proposed crop insurance, based on the same type of organization as the Philadelphia Contributionship.


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