American LaFrance

Founded in 1872.
Filed under:  Companies
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American LaFrance is the premier builder of emergency vehicles in the world.

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American LaFrance logo.

American LaFrance (ALF) is an emergency vehicle manufacturer, formerly based in Ladson, South Carolina.

The American LaFrance heritage is literally the history of the fire engine.

In 1872, in the midst of the American Industrial Revolution, Truckson LaFrance, with his partners, started the LaFrance Manufacturing Company in order to produce hand pumps and rotary steam engines based on LaFrance’s new patents. As his designs began winning major national competitions, the Lafrance name began to spread.

Over the next three decades, changes in technology came fast and furious. Powerful piston steam engines replaced the venerable rotary, a remarkable screw-driven ladder truck came to the aid of a new class of urban firefighters, and the emerging threat of industrial fires spurred the growth of chemical retardants to battle them. Through it all, the company stayed on the crest of this new technological wave.

At the turn of the century, the LaFrance Fire Engine Company joined with the American Fire Engine Company to become the American LaFrance Fire Engine Company.

As fire departments nationwide began clamoring for self-propelled fire engines to replace horse-drawn rigs, American LaFrance began to experiment with radical designs that utilized gasoline instead of steam.

By 1916, American LaFrance produced a 6-cylinder, gas-powered pumping apparatus that performed so well it literally spelled the end of the steam engine. By virtue of its own vision of excellence and innovation, the company had made obsolete the very technology upon which it had been founded.

Throughout the early to mid-twentieth century, through two World Wars, and the urban boom of the 50’s and 60’s, American LaFrance continued to be at the forefront of fire apparatus design and manufacture. Many of the models produced then are now considered prized collector’s items, and have found proud places in museums and private displays all over the world.

To celebrate its 100th anniversary in 1973, American LaFrance unveiled the Century Series pumper. This "modern" fire engine included revolutionary features that would become the industry standard.

(source: American LaFrance)

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American LaFrance logo.

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