American LaFrance Corporation

American LaFrance Corporation

The History of The American LaFrance Corporation

American LaFrance Corporation was one of the most influential fire apparatus manufacturers in history, with no firm having more impact on the design of modern apparatus. This comes as no surprise, as American LaFrance is among the oldest fire vehicle producers, its roots tracing back to Waterford, New York in 1832.

John F. Rodgers of Waterford, New York began his own small business building hand pumpers. By1934, Rodgers sold his small organization to Lysander Button, who began building steam-powered apparatus under a new name, Button and Blake. In 1891, Button decided to merge with three other apparatus manufacturers, including Silsby, Ahrens, and Clapp & Jones, forming the American Fire Engine Company. Around the same time, in 1873, the LaFrance Manufacturing Company was founded and renamed in 1880 to the LaFrance Fire Engine Company.

At the turn of the century, a Chicago industrialist tried to consolidate the American Fire Engine Company, LaFrance Fire Engine Company, and many other apparatus manufacturers. This new entity failed, but was reconstructed in 1904 to American LaFrance, a combination of the American Fire Engine Company and LaFrance Fire Engine Company.

Over the next few decades, American LaFrance moved from the production of steam-powered apparatus to motorized vehicles, creating many innovations and becoming a dominant player in the industry. Developments during this era included V-12 engines, cab-forward apparatus, hydraulically-operated aerial ladders, and much more. After World War II, American La France introduced the 700 series of cab-forward chassis, which revolutionized the fire truck and is arguably their most iconic product.

In 1955, American LaFrance merged with Sterling Precision Instrument Corporation to form the American LaFrance Corporation. Ten years later, in 1966, the corporation became a division of ATO. After this merge, American LaFrance went through many stages of closure and reopening from 1985-2014, when they finally announced that American LaFrance was officially closed.