Q: Can you tell me how old this fire engine is and if it's worth anything? The information printed on it is: "Champion Chemical Engine, American LaFrance Fire Engine Co., Factory 27227, Elmira, N.Y." and "40 Gallon Chemical Fire Engine, Tested 350 lbs."
A: Truckson S. LaFrance and his partners started the LaFrance Manufacturing Co. in 1872. He held several patents for fire engine boilers, pumps, valves, and other improvements. LaFrance merged with American Fire Engine Co. in 1904 to form American LaFrance Fire Engine Co. The company is still in business. Chemical fire engines or extinguishers powered by a combination of acid and soda were first used in the 1860s. Bicarbonate of soda was added to the water in the tank and combined with sulphuric acid, which produced a chemical reaction that forced water from the tank into the hose. Several companies made chemical fire engines, including American LaFrance. Yours is narrow enough to be pulled through doorways by a firefighter. Chemical engines were used by firehouses until the 1930s, when water tanks with boosters became more common and expensive chemicals were no longer needed. Your chemical fire engine is from the early 1900s and is worth between $100 and $200.