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By Costantino Spinosa

ImageSun Fire Office emblem, 1734

The insurance collections at the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Library include ten policies from the Sun Fire Office of London, England, dating from 1734 to 1894. The policies are easily recognizable by the office’s trademark emblem, which portrays a sun surrounded by an insurance fireman and salvage porter.[1] Analysis of the policy emblems reveals several changes, most evident in the two earliest policies of our collection. Our earliest policy emblem, dated from 1735, portrays a sun in the center of the emblem surrounded by a salvage porter on the left and insurance fireman on the right. The emblem also includes a four-columned building behind the men and a flag depicting an engine pump hanging above the sun.

Our second-oldest emblem, c.1800 (which is not attached to a policy) portrays a slightly different version of the scene depicted in the emblem from 1735. This emblem illustrates the sun surrounded by the salvage porter on the right and the insurance fireman on the left, both in different outfits. In addition, the building behind the two men and the flag depicting an engine pump both changed dramatically. The emblem c.1800 is the same on every other subsequent Sun Fire Office policy in our collection. My research has not provided an answer as to when exactly the emblem was changed, but I was able to narrow the year span in which it may have occurred. An image from P.G.M. Dickinson’s book, The Sun Insurance Office, 1710-1960: the history of two and a half centuries of British insurance reveals the same emblem on the policy from c.1800 on a policy that dates back to 1760.[2] Thus sometime between the years of 1735 and 1760 the Sun Fire Office changed the structure of their emblem, which was used on all subsequent policies throughout the 19th century.

ImageSun Fire Office emblem, c.1800

[1] “London Fire Brigade – The First Fire Brigades (Sun Fire C. 19th Century)”, n.d. http://www.london-fire.gov.uk/FireInsuranceAndTheLFEE.asp.

[2] Dickinson, P.G.M. The Sun Insurance Office, 1710-1960: the history of two and a half centuries of British insurance. Oxford University Press, 1960.