Who Knew? The first practical firefighting equipment was invented in Cincinnati

CINCINNATI - Over the years, Cincinnati’s first responders have proudly served the residents of their city. Not only is the Queen City known for its accomplished service, but it also has a storied history of technological advancements in firefighting.

WHAT IS IT? Cincinnati invented the first practical fire engine
WHERE CAN I SEE IT? Cincinnati Fire Museum
WHO KNEW? Christine Mersch and Lisa Mueller, authors of “Cincinnati Fire History”

Christine Mersch and Lisa Mueller, authors of “Cincinnati Fire History,” explained this little-known story that led to huge improvements in fire safety across the United States.

Who invented the first fire engine?
The A.B. Latta steam fire engine was built by Lane and Bodley in the mid-1800s. It had a steam-propelled engine, a design that was patented by Alexander Bonner Latta. Latta then constructed the first successful steam engine in Cincinnati in 1852.

How did the first fire engine work?
The engine had a square firebox with a furnace on top. The top coils of tubes flowed into the steam chambers, and the bottom coils connected through the firebox. Combustion and compression moved the water through the hose. It won a gold medal at the Ohio Mechanics Institute Fair in 1854.

How did the design evolve?
In 1912, the first motorized pumper was also introduced in Cincinnati. Prior to that, the horse-drawn fire engines used hand-operated pumps to move water through the attached hoses.

How long did it take for the Cincinnati Fire Department to become completely motorized?
All Cincinnati fire companies began using motorized vehicles in 1922. Horse-drawn engines were sold off at auctions for $856 each.

What other achievements did the Cincinnati fire engine accomplish?
Through the 1950s, steam fire engines manufactured in Cincinnati held the most world records for fastest steam, fastest water, greatest flow in gallons per minute, and highest distance for streams.

Connect with the Cincinnati Fire Museum: www.cincyfiremuseum.com or (513) 621-5553.

Follow WCPO Contributor Paige E. Malott on Twitter: @Paigetastic01 and check out her blog CincyWhimsy.com

Check back next week for another edition of "Who Knew?" If you have a tip, idea or question email: holly.edgell@wcpo.com.

Print this article Back to Top