Latta, Alexander B.

Was born on June 11, 1821 in Ross County, Ohio to John Latta and Rebecca Bonner Latta. When he was five years old, his father died, leaving the family penniless. The remainder of the family moved to Cincinnati in 1827. He married Elizabeth A. Pawson in 1847 and was the father of two children, G. Taylor Latta and Luella Latta.

Early in his carrier, A.B. Latta worked in several Cincinnati firms, including: David Bradford Woolen Mills, William Bylad Ship-joiner, and the Samuel Cumming’s Brass Founder. In 1841 the Anthony Harkness Machine Works in Cincinnati employed him. In 1846, Latta moved to Washington D.C. where he accepted a position in the Navy Yards. Latta returned to Cincinnati where he again held a series of positions.

A.B. Latta, however, is best known for his invention of the first practical steam-powered fire engine. After many years of work, Latta sold the first steam-powered fire engine in the world to the City of Cincinnati in 1853. He named the engine the “Uncle Joe Ross.” Latta sold over 30 fire engines to cities across the country. A.B. Latta also held a number of patents for other inventions he developed to improve the steam engine.

Latta eventually moved to the village of Ludlow. He built a home on what is today Latta Avenue (the home was demolished to make way for today’s Latta House). In March 1864, he was elected to the first city council. He died on April 28, 1865 in Ludlow at the age of 45. His wife, Elizabeth, died on October 2, 1917 (she was born on January 10, 1829 in Cincinnati, Ohio).

Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. VI, pp. 28-29; Commonwealth of Kentucky Death Certificate, 1917.

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