The roots of the Ahrens-Fox Fire Engine Company go back to 1856 when in German-born Chris Ahrens started as an apprentice in Abel Latta’s steam fire engine shop in Cincinnati, Ohio. Later in 1868, Ahrens started building his own steam fire engines as C. Ahrens & Co. His steam fire engines soon earned a reputation for excellence.
In 1891, C. Ahrens & Co. became part of the American Fire Engine Company, which then in 1900 became part of the International Fire Engine Company. After that company went bankrupt, in 1905 the Ahrens Fire Engine Company was founded. In 1910, the company’s name was changed to the Ahrens-Fox Fire Engine Co., when Charles H. Fox became President of the firm and John P. Ahrens took the Vice-President’s position. That same year the company began in earnest to develop a motor pumping engine.
Ahrens-Fox developed a design in 1915 that used a large spherical air chamber atop a front-mounted piston pump. This feature would become one of the most recognizable and iconic designs of American fire apparatus. Ahrens-Fox would continue to build piston pumps until 1952.
Ahrens-Fox was one of the leading builders of fire apparatus prior to World-War Two. Although renowned for its piston pumpers, Ahrens-Fox also built a variety of apparatus using rotary and centrifugal pumps. These constituted the vast majority of the company’s post World War Two production. Ahrens-Fox never really recovered from the Great Depression and struggled on until 1956 when Ahrens-Fox finally went out of business.
The SPAAMFAA Archives has an amazing collection containing tens of thousands of images of fire apparatus. Ultimately we have lofty goals of cataloging, indexing, scanning, and digitizing everything electronically, with copies of most of the illustrative material cross available for personal-use. In the meantime you can view a selection of these images on our SmugMug gallery:
Ahrens Fox Fire Apparatus Old And New
Ahrens Fox & Queen City Pumpers Made in Cincinnati Ohio