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Continuing south you come to the fascinating yet long-winded Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire (212 S. 4th Street). This is the oldest fire insurance company in America, founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1752. Since the beginning, the company used the "hand-in-hand" symbol you see on the building's exterior. This firemark turns up on numerous buildings throughout historic Philadelphia. In the early days, a firemark was a sign to firefighters that a building was insured, meaning they would be paid for putting out the flames. Stories abound that there were instances when firemen arrived at a burning home and left if they didn't see a firemark. Inside, you can see displays of old fire-fighting equipment and insurance policies. Open Monday through Friday from 10:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. Admission is free. (215) 627-1752. www.contributionship.com.