American La France - 1873-present - Elmira, New York


American LaFrance Fire Engine Company

In the early 1860's, Truckson LaFrance traveled from Pennsylva要ia to Elmira, New York looking for employment. He got a job at the Elmira Union Iron Works. It was while he was employed here that he first became interested in steam engines.

In the 1870's LaFrance obtained several patents on improvements he developed in the rotary steam engine. John Vischer, head of the Iron Works, became interested and was convinced by LaFrance to back him in the manufacture of a steam fire engine. They subsequently formed a business partnership to manufacture fire apparatus.

Their success attracted the attention of Alexander S. Diven, a wealthy Elmira businessman, and his four sons, who bought the company in April of 1873. They re要amed it LaFrance Manufacturing Company and appointed John Vischer as a Director and Truckson LaFrance as the company's Mechan虹cal Engineer.

Within three months, the new company bought 10 acres of land and built a plant to manufacture steam engines and related equipment, including railroad locomo負ives.

By 1876 Truckson's brother, Asa LaFrance, joined the company as a traveling salesman.

In the hopes of promoting world趴ide sales, the company built a steam fire engine and shipped it to France, in 1878, for the Paris Exposi負ion. Unfortunately it did not com計ly with French law and they were not even allowed to demonstrate it. This was not only a huge disappointment, but, the expense nearly closed the plant.

Another Elmira businessman agreed to finance the manufacture of a fire engine if it was named after his wife. Sales depended upon entering and winning competitions. Thus the new "Jeanie Jewell" was off to Chicago for a three day com計etition, accompanied by Asa LaFrance and Thomas Hotchkiss. The LaFrance steamer, at the close of competition, was proclaimed "best in the industry".

In 1880, the company was once again reorganized; this time as LaFrance Steam Engine Company, to take advantage of the company's 訃eputation as the leading manufac負urer of rotary, nest-tube boilers, invented and patented by Truckson LaFrance and used for fire engines.

Two years later, another major achievement took place when the firm arranged with Daniel D. Hayes to manufacture an extension ladder truck. This truck was considered a major technological advancement at the time. The LaFrance Steam Engine Company had clearly established itself as the leading manufacturer of fire engines.

The American Fire Engine Com計any was formed in 1891, by joining the Button Fire Engine Works, Silsby Manufacturing Company, Ahrens Manufacturing Company, and Clapp and Jones. LaFrance declined an offer to be included. However, in the late 1890's a group of New York investors desired to form a fire engine manufacturing monopoly and in 1900, the Interna負ional Fire Engine Company was announced. This new organization included American Fire Engine Company, along with LaFrance Fire Engine Company, and Thos. Man要ing Jr. & Co., along with several other support equipment manufac負urers.

This new company, with some reorganization, new officers, and J.H. Clarke as president, was named the American LaFrance Fire Engine Company and located its headquar負ers in New York, NY, until 1906 when they moved to Elmira.

The company continued its quest for innovation in design, quality of product and pride in furnishing the best equipment in the industry.


ad in 1953 Silver Book pp85


AMERICAN LA FRANCE (US) 1910 to date

(1) American La France Fire Engine Co., Elmira, N. Y. 1910-1927

(2) American La France Truck Co., Bloomfield, N.J. 19231929

(3) American La France & Foamite Corp., Elmira, N. Y. 1927-1966 .

(4) American La France, Divn A.T.O. Inc.,. Elmira, N.Y. 1966-to date

(5) La France Fire Engine & Foamite Ltd., Toronto, Ontario

America's leading manufacturer of custom fire engines, the American La France company was formed in 1903 from a group of smaller companies the oldest of which dated back to 1832. The name came from the two largest of the companies, American Fire Engine Company of Seneca Falls, N.Y. and the La France Fire Engine Company of Elmira, N.Y. Experimental steam fire engines were made in 1905/06, and in 1910 came the first motor vehicle, a chemical and hose wagon powered by a 4苞ylinder Simplex engine. Also in 1910 the company's own designs of 4- and 6-cylinder engines were developed, and soon they were using no bought-out engines. In 1913 came two important developments, the gas-electric Types 16 and 30, and the front-drive conversions for horse-drawn apparatus known as the Type 31. These were made for 16 years, and some completely factory-built front-drive fire engines were also known as Type 31s. The largest conventional chassis was the Type 17 with 105 hp 6苞ylinder engine. In 1914 American La France built their last steam pumper, attached to a Type 31 tractor. The larger ladder trucks had rear-wheel steering operated by a steersman with a tiller who sat above the rear axle. Wheelbase of these machines ranged from 239 tp 383 in.

Commercial trucks were made by American La France intermittently from 1913 to 1929, in sizes from two to 7 tons. Like the fire engines they used the company's own engines exclusively. A new factory especially intended for truck manufacture was acquired at Bloomfield, N.J. in 1923 and remained in use until 1929 when the truck side of ALF was merged with Republic to form the La France Republic Corporation.

Conventional and front-drive fire engines continued to be made during the 1920s. Among the smallest was the Type 40 350 gpm rotary gear pumper, and American La France equipment was available on a special Brockway chassis in the mid-1920s. In 1927 the company acquired the Foamite-Childs Corp. which had made fire engines on Kearns-Dughie chassis under the name Childs Thoroughbred. The following year American La France combined with General Motors ,to make the Buick-計owered American La France-GMC Type 199 for medium-sized chemical, hose wagon and pumper work.

The last front-drive tractors were made in 1929, and two years later came one of the most important innovations in the firm's history, their 240 hp 300 V-12 engine. This was used in the larger fire engines and also in. Brockway trucks, the Budd Streamliner railroad locomotive and army tanks. It was joined in 1935 by a smaller 170 hp V-12 based on the Auburn passenger car engine. Smaller 500 gpm pumpers used Lycoming straight-8 engines. Four wheel brakes had arrived in 1929, and chain drive was finally phased out on the 1935 400 series. Van-type pumpers came into vogue in 1936.

Probably the most dramatic model of the 1930s was the Metropolitan Duplex Pumper of which four were delivered to Los Angeles in 1937/38. These had two of the large V -12 engines, one to drive the wheels and the cowl-mounted pump, and the other to drive the rear pump. The new 500 Series with streamlined grille and hood came out in 1938, but of most significance was the cab-forward aerial ladder truck introduced in 1939, which was the precursor of the 700 Series of cab-forwards announced in 1945 and put into production two years later. Unlike their rivals who continued conventionals and cab-forwards side by side, American La France went over exclusively to the new design with the 700 which made until 1956. In 1950 American La France was awarded a big Air Force contract for their 0-10 and 0-11 6x2 airfield crash trucks which had remotely-controlled foam turrets on the roof. A similar design was made by Marmon-Herrington, and a total of 1100 were delivered between 1950 and 1953.

In 1955 American La France departed from tradition by using a proprietary engine, a 6-cylinder Continental, on their lower-priced Ranger, Protector and Crusader pumpers. The 700 was replaced in 1956 by the 800 which was generally similar in appearance and like its predecessor came in open and closed cab models, rigids and articulateds. Engines were the Continental six or American La France's own V-12. Two years later came the 900 Series with completely re-styled cab and a new V-8 engine in addition to the other power units. The V-12 was finally phased out during 1961.

In 1960 three gas-turbine powered fire engines were put into service, but were found to be too noisy and lacking in acceleration, so they were quietly converted to gasoline power. However in 1972 a further gas-turbine experimental fire engine was built. In 1962 a new range of airport crash tenders was introduced - known as the Airport Chief these were based on the 900 Series but had 4-wheel-drive. In 1964 came the Pioneer Series of lower苞ost pumpers designed to bridge the gap between commercial chassis and the high priced 900 models. The Pioneers had squared off cabs in place of the rounded cabs of the 900s. Diesel engines were introduced in 1965, and were standardized on the 1000 Series of premium pumpers introduced in 1970. Otherwise there were no drastic changes on the 1000 Series which preserved the appearance of the 900s dating back to 1958. In 1971 the Pioneers had 285 hp International gasoline engines as standard, with the option of 216 or 265 hp Detroit Diesels, while a new model in 1972 was the Pacemaker priced between the Pioneer and the 1000. It had a Cincinnati cab and Detroit Diesel engine. A new, wider cab Century Series appeared in 1974 and is still made today representing the top end of the American La France line. It is available in 4x2 and 6x4 forms, and as an articulated tractor-trailer unit. Engines are Detroit Diesels from 216 to 380 hp or Cummins from 225 to 350 hp.


    For more information please read:

Lawrence E. Phillips - American LaFrance 700 Series 1945-1952 Photo Archive, Vol. 1

Lawrence E. Phillips - American LaFrance 700 Series 1945-1952 Photo Archive, Vol. 2

Lawrence E. Phillips - American Lafrance 700 & 800 Series 1953-1958 Photo Archives

Lawrence E. Phillips - American Lafrance 900 Series 1958-1964 Photo Archive

Walter M.P. McCall & George H. Dammann - American Fire Engines Since 1900

Fred W. Crismon - Fire Engines

Bob Dubbert - Encyclopedia of Canadian Fire Apparatus

Donal M. Baird - A Canadian History of Fire Engines

Phil DaCosta - One Hundred Years of America's Fire Fighting Apparatus

Bill Hass - History of the American Water Towers

Hans Halberstadt - The American Fire Engine

Hans Halberstadt - Fire Engines

T.A. Jacobs - A History of Fire Engines

Matthew Lee - A Pictorial History of the Fire Engine

M.W. Goodman MD - Inventing the American Fire Engine: An Illustrated History of Fire Engine Patents

Consumer's Guide - The Complete Book of Fire Engines: A colorful Review of Today's Fire Apparatus

Sheila Buff - Fire Engines in North America

Sheila Buff - Fire Engines: Motorized Apparatus Since 1900

Neil Wallington - World Encyclopedia of Fire Engines: an illustrated guide to fire trucks around the world

Keith Ryan & Neil Wallington - The Illustrated History of Fire Engines

Paul Barrett - Heavy Rescue Trucks: 1931 - 2000 Photo Gallery

Larry Shapiro - Aerial Fire Trucks

Larry Shapiro - Fighting Fire Trucks

Larry Shapiro - Hooks and Ladders

Larry Shapiro - Pumpers: Workhorse Fire Engines

Donald F. Wood - American Volunteer Fire Trucks

Donald F. Wood - Big City Fire Truck 1900-1950

Donald F. Wood & Wayne Sorensen - Big City Fire Trucks: 1951-1996

Donald F. Wood & Wayne Sorenson - Motorized Fire Apparatus of the West, 1900-1960

Donald F. Wood & Wayne Sorensen - New York City Fire Trucks

Donald F. Wood & Wayne Sorenson - Volunteer & Rural Fire Apparatus Photo Gallery

Kenneth Little - Chicago Fire Department engines: Sixty years of motorized pumpers, 1912-1972

Kenneth Little - Chicago Fire Department hook & ladder tractors, 1914-1971

Ron Jeffers - The apparatus of the Jersey City Fire Department: Yesterday and today

John Rieth - Jersey Shore Fire Apparatus: Classic Thru the 60's

Philip R. Lincoln - Massachusetts fire apparatus: A pictorial Collection

Charles Madderom - Los Angeles City Fire Apparatus: 1953 Through 1999 Photo Archive

George Klass - Fire apparatus: A pictorial history of the Los Angeles Fire Department

John A. Calderone - Wheels of the bravest: A history of FDNY fire apparatus, 1865-1992

Peter Aloisi - Apparatus and fires across America: Featuring former FDNY apparatus

Scott Schimpf - Fire Apparatus of Philadelphia

Harrold Shell - Past and present: A history of Phoenix fire trucks

Leo E. Duliba - Industrial & Private Fire Apparatus: 1925 Through 2001 Photo Archive

G.N. Georgano & G. Marshall Naul - The Complete Encyclopedia of Commercial Vehicles

Albert Mroz - Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Trucks & Commercial Vehicles

Daniel D. Hutchins - Wheels Across America: Carriage Art & Craftsmanship

George W. Green - Special-Use Vehicles: An Illustrated History of Unconventional Cars and Trucks

William T. King - History of the American Steam Fire-Engine

Ed Hass - The Dean of Steam Fire Engine Builders

John M. Peckham - Fighting fire with fire: A pictorial volume of steam fire-fighting apparatus

Ed Strauss & Karen Strauss - The Bus World Encyclopedia of Buses

G.N. Georgano & G. Marshall Naul - The Complete Encyclopedia of Commercial Vehicles

Albert Mroz - Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Trucks & Commercial Vehicles

Donald F. Wood - American Buses

Denis Miller - The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Trucks and Buses

Susan Meikle Mandell - A Historical Survey of Transit Buses in the United States

David Jacobs - American Buses, Greyhound, Trailways and Urban Transportation

William A. Luke & Linda L. Metler - Highway Buses of the 20th Century: A Photo Gallery 

William A. Luke & Brian Grams - Buses of Motorcoach Industries 1932-2000 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Greyhound Buses 1914-2000 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Prevost Buses 1924-2002 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Flxible Intercity Buses 1924-1970 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Buses of ACF Photo Archive (including ACF-Brill & CCF-Brill)

William A. Luke - Trailways Buses 1936-2001 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Fageol & Twin Coach Buses 1922-1956 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Yellow Coach Buses 1923 Through 1943: Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Trolley Buses: 1913 Through 2001 Photo Archive

Harvey Eckart - Mack Buses: 1900 Through 1960 Photo Archive

Brian Grams & Andrew Gold - GM Intercity Coaches 1944-1980 Photo Archive

Robert R. Ebert  - Flxible: A History of the Bus and the Company

John McKane - Flxible Transit Buses: 1953 Through 1995 Photo Archive

Bill Vossler - Cars, Trucks and Buses Made by Tractor Companies

Lyndon W Rowe - Municipal buses of the 1960s

Edward S. Kaminsky - American Car & Foundry Company 1899-1999

Dylan Frautschi - Greyhound in Postcards: Buses, Depots and Post Houses


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