AHRENS-FOX FIRE ENGINE COMPANY
The catalogs of the Ahrens-Fox Fire Engine
Company alluded to the fact that their company was directly connected to the
inventor of the steam pumper. This claim was made because in 1868 they had
bought the business from Lane and Bodley who had, in 1862, bought out Alexander
B. Latta (1821-1865). Latta has long been touted as the first inventor of the
steam fire engine, (the Uncle Joe Ross in 1852). This claim has since been disproved.
John Braithwaite in 1828 built an experimental steam fire engine in London. He
along with John Ericsson had, by 1833, built 4 more engines that were used in
France, Russia, and Berlin. Paul R. Hodge produced a steam fire engine in N.Y. in
1840-41. Like most myths this one will no doubt continue.
In March of 1852, a Cincinnati locksmith named Abel Shawk, a railroad locomotive builder named Alexander Bonner "Moses" Latta, and a iron-foundry owner named Miles Greenwood, joined forces to build the world's first successful steam-powered fire engine. Their demonstration was so successful the city of Cincinnati contracted with them to build a fire engine for them. Shawk's quick-steaming boiler, which could heat the water to steam in under 10 minutes, made the steam fire engine practical., while Latta lent his locomotive expertise to the steam engine, pump, and chassis.
Shawk and Latta, along with Latta's brothers Edmnundson and Finlay Latta formed the A. B. & E. Latta "Buckeye Works" to build the engine. Greenwood's factory was used to build the engine called the Uncle Joe Ross after the city councilman who had championed the building of the engine.
Miles Greenwood, who was also a city councilman, became the city's (thus the worlds) first professional paid fire chief running the first paid fire department.
The Ross was so popular that in 1854 the citizens of Cincinnati raised the funds to buy a second fire engine aptly named Citizen's Gift.
There was a young apprentice working for Shawk and Latta in their factory by the name of Chris Ahrens. When Shawk and Latta sold their business in 1863 to Lane & Bodley, a local machine shop, Chris Ahrens became superintendent of fire engine construction. Five years later Ahrens bought out the Latta fire engine business, renaming it C. Ahrens & Co.
Lane & Bodley. John & Water Streets 1894 Ad.
Lane & Bodley Fire Engine
Foundry Boiler Shop Finishing Shop
In 1877, Ahrens renamed his company the Ahrens Manufacturing
Company. By 1903, Ahrens fire engines held every world record for steam fire
engine performance. When one was broken a new Ahrens engine would set a new
In 1891 Ahrens merged with three of its biggest competitors to form American Fire Engine Company. Chris Ahrens' son-in-law, Charles Hust Fox, left his position as assistant Chief of the Cincinnati Fire Department to join the Ahrens firm. One of Mr. fox's innovations was the Fox Vertical Water Tube Boiler, which could raise steam from cold water in 3 minutes, and the "Columbian' steamer, the world's first pumper to carry its own hose. Before this a steamer required a separate hose wagon to carry its hoses. In 1902 Fox helped develop the world's first gasoline-powered fire engine.
In 1905 after a protracted legal battle, the Ahrens family separated the company from the conglomerate that had grown over the years. It became the Ahrens Fire Engine Company. The company's new type of fire engine was the "Continental", it was third in sales and again garnered every world record, delivering the highest gallons per minute, the greatest pressure, pumping through the longest length of hose lines, and shooting streams further and higher than any other make of steamer of the day.
Ahrens machine shop in 1905 Located at Alfred & Cook Sts.
Ahrens name patch
In 1910 the company became the Ahrens-Fox Fire Engine Company. They
introduced the first gasoline powered fire engine in 1911.
The company lasted until the last fire engine left the factory in 1953 on Christmas Eve. Spare parts continued to be supplied for the next 37 years.
The 2nd image below is a model of Latta's first engine. (Cincinnati Fire Museum). The 3rd image shows the original 3 wheel design of Latta's in this engine called Deluge. It was designed for engine house #10 at the corner of Third and Lawrence shown in 1868. The fourth was taken in 1870. The next row down shows what happens when a building collapses on top of a fire engine. The building to the right is the Cincinnati Hotel which was located at 821 Sycamore St.
Alexander Latta Model of 1st Fire Engine 1868-3rd and Lawrence Sts. 1870 Fire Engine
Spring Grove Factory
Factory at 22-26 Webster St Piston Pumper
Old Joe Ross Continental Delivery Test Pump and Hose Car
Test or Demonstration
Continental delivered to Detroit Michigan.
Ahrens print ads 1894