It is said that Ctesibius of Alexandria is credited with inventing the very first fire pump apparatus sometime around the 2nd century. The fire pump was later reengineered in Europe during the 16th century and used extentively in Augsburg, Germany around 1517 and Nuremberg, Germany around 1658.
In 1730, Richard Newsham of London, England was designing fire engines apparatus and the very first one was sent to New York City. The amount of manpower and skill necessary for firefighting prompted Benjamin Franklin to organize the first commerical fire company in 1737. In 1743, Thomas Lote built the first fire engine ever made in America. John Ericsson is said to have built the first American steam powered fire engine in 1840.
Until the 19th century, most fire engines were maneuvered by men. However, the introduction of horse-drawn fire engines considerably improved the response time to fire incidents. Motorized fire engines did not become common until the early 20th century.
The first modern and “state-of-the-art” fire engine was built in 1906 by Knox Automobile Company in Springfield, Massachusetts who later became famous for its fire trucks. For many years firefighters sat on the sides of the fire engines, or even stood on the rear of the vehicles, exposed to the elements. This arrangement was uncomfortable and dangerous. Some firefighters were actually thrown to their deaths when their fire engines made sharp turns on the roadways. Today all fire engines have fully enclosed seating areas for the firefighters
< Photo Courtesy of the Knox Automobile Company >