American LaFrance Company was the kind of legend in America and one of the oldest automotive companies of the New World. This company became the author of creating the largest, powerful, efficient and beautiful fire trucks in USA. All chassis were produced by the company, and also occasionally it produced trucks and cars. The company's story began in 1832 with a small workshop of John Rogers for the production of manual fire pumps. In 1873, a blacksmith from Pennsylvania Truckson LaFrance founded in Elmira (NY) the company of a similar profile. Joined in 1903, they gave a life to the American LaFrance Company.
By the mid 20-ies the company has produced more than 4 thousand fire trucks, as well as a number of commercial trucks. American LaFrance company often recognized as conservative: for example, the chain drive was replaced only in 1935, and the first diesel engine was used only in 1965. In 1927 American LaFrance acquired the well-known fire equipment manufacturer - the Foamite-Childs Co. With this important acquisition, the company got a new corporate name - American LaFrance and Foamite Co.
American LaFrance maintained full production through the war. The Elmira, New York, plant worked around the clock to fulfill huge government contracts for firefighting apparatus of all types. The company turned out thousands of fire engines for the armed forces, government, including hundreds of units shipped overseas. In addition to military and civilian fire apparatus, Alfco produced a wide range of aircraft parts and other war material. With victory assured, military contracts dwindled sharply by 1945 and the company began preparations for the resumption of peacetime fire apparatus production.
In the mid 50's imperceptible decline of American LaFrance began with the wider use of units of other companies, including Continental engines. In early 1980s, American LaFrance underwent another corporate name change. The company was now an operating division of Figgie International Inc., a deversifield industrial conglomerate that owned such well-known names in the fire protection field as Snorkel, Automatic Sprinkler, Scott Aviation and Safety Supply America. Early in 1985, Figgie International made the stunning announcement that it was shutting down its entire American LaFrance devision. The last Elmira-built American LaFrance fire engine rolled out of the South-port plant on June 30, 1985. After 117 years, the revered LaFrance name disappeared from the Elmira area business directory.
But not for long. American LaFrance was down, but evidently not out. Only a few month after the Elmira phaseout, Harry E. Figgie set up an entirely new American LaFrance operation in another one of his plants, Kersey Manufacturing, a maker of battery-powered mining and aircraft towing tractors in Bluefield, Virginia. History again repeated itself. In early 1994, Figgie International announced that the company would cease operations at the end of June. After 162 years, it looked like American LaFrance had really come to the end of the road. But, in 1996, the company was acquired by the successful company Freightliner, who made large investments in a complete reorganization and upgrading. In 1997 a new American LaFrance's plant was put into operation in Cleveland (North Carolina).
In December 2005, it was announced that Freightliner had transferred the ownership of American LaFrance to the New York-based investment firm, Patriarch Partners, LLC. The headquarters and main plant in Ladson, South Carolina were not included in the transaction. However, Patriarch Partners were allowed to use the plant until early 2007, when DaimlerChrysler began using the plant for assembly of the Dodge Sprinter. Under new ownership ALF relocated within the Charleston, South Carolina area in summer 2007 to a brand new facility including manufacturing and corporate HQ, with nearly 500,000 sq ft (50,000 m²) of total space.
On January 28 2008, American LaFrance filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy blaming an ERP implementation project. On July 25 2008, the company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy with a revised business plan to transfer the firetruck body building portion of the business to the remaining Hamburg, NY (formerly RDMurray Inc.) and Ephrata, PA (formerly Ladder Towers Inc.) facilities. The Summerville, SC plant would continue to manufacture fire truck cab and chassis, but would focus on vocational vehicles and the Condor vehicle line.