The Madison Fire Department (NJ) now has a 1921 Ahrens-Fox Model P-4 fire engine on loan for a year as it seeks to mount a fund drive to buy back the historic pumping truck.
In 1921, the borough’s benefactor, Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge, donated it after a fire destroyed several barns on her estate, taking with it her favorite horse. At that time, it was purchased for $18,000; for comparison a Model T Ford was selling at $370. A parade attended by more than 10,000 people came out to welcome the fire engine to Madison.
There were only 23 Ahrens-Fox Model P fire engines manufactured by the Ahrens Fox Company in Cincinnati (OH). Of the 23, only nine had the distinction of being P-4 models.
The fire engine served Madison for more than 40 years, until it experienced a parts failure as the department was fighting a church fire in 1954.
It was sold to a fire department in Ashley (PA) for parade duty — and then to Harrah’s casino and hotel in Reno (NV) for display in an antique automobile collection. When the Harrah’s collection was auctioned off in 1980, the fire engine passed into the hands of private owners, disappearing from public view.
After discovering that the fire engine has been in a private collection in Ware (MA) since 1981, the Madison Fire Chief has been trying to bring it back home. This would cost $150,000.
Other than the removal of its windshield and front-mounted red warning light, the Ahrens-Fox fire engine remains much the same as it did when it arrived in Madison inside a box car so many years ago.
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