Fire Engine

From Ohio History Central

On March 2, 1852, three Cincinnati, Ohio, residents, Abel Shawk, Alexander Bonner Latta, and Miles Greenwood, began construction of the world's first practical steam-powered fire engine. Shawk was a locksmith, Latta was a locomotive builder, and Greenwood owned a local iron foundry. Earlier inventors had manufactured steam-powered fire engines, but the Cincinnati version proved to be much more practical, as the steam engine could begin pumping water out of a water source in ten minutes. Earlier engines took significantly longer.

After the three men demonstrated their finished engine to the Cincinnati City Council, the council members contracted for an engine. The fire engine was presented to the Cincinnati Fire Department on January 1, 1853, making Cincinnati the first city in the world to use steam fire engines. This first engine was named "Uncle Joe Ross" after a city council member. In 1854, Cincinnati residents raised enough funds to allow the Fire department to purchase a second steam fire engine. This engine was known as "Citizen's Gift."

The steam fire engine forever changed firefighting in Cincinnati. Pleased with the engine, local government leaders decided to form a professional fire department rather than relying on volunteers. On April 1, 1853, Cincinnati created the first professional and fully-paid fire department in the United States. Greenwood, co-inventor of the steam fire engine, served as the department's first chief.

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