Eagle Ironworks

From Ohio History Central

In 1832, Miles Greenwood established the Eagle Ironworks on the banks of the Miami and Erie Canal in Cincinnati, Ohio. The foundry quickly became the largest in the Midwest.

The Eagle Ironworks greatly assisted the Union war effort during the American Civil War. Greenwood only allowed the Eagle Ironworks to produce items for the Northern military and, ceased all other production. At the beginning of the war, Eagle Ironworks manufactured one dozen iron anchors for pontoon bridges at the request of General John C. Fremont. Greenwood's firm manufactured the anchors in just twenty-four hours. Over the course of the war, Greenwood developed machinery that could manufacture three thousand smoothbore muskets per day. He also built turrets for ironclad ships when no other iron foundry would attempt the work. Greenwood's contributions to the Northern war effort greatly assisted the Union. The success of the Eagle Ironworks' also prompted Southern sympathizers to set fire to the foundry on three different occasions. Combined damages amounted to 100,000 dollars, but Greenwood never ceased production.

An important innovation of Greenwood and the Eagle Ironworks was helping to develop and manufacture the first practical steam fire engine in history. On March 2, 1852, three Cincinnati residents, Abel Shawk, Alexander Bonner Latta, and Greenwood, began construction of the fire engine. Shawk was a locksmith, and Latta was a locomotive builder. The Eagle Ironworks manufactured the engine. Earlier inventors had manufactured steam-powered fire engines, but the Cincinnati version proved to be much more practical. The steam engine could begin pumping water out of a water source in ten minutes. Earlier engines took a longer time. A principal reason for Greenwood's involvement with this product was a fire that destroyed the Eagle Ironworks in 1852. Greenwood hoped that this new fire engine would better protect his business.

After the three men demonstrated their finished engine to the Cincinnati City Council, the city agreed to buy an engine. The fire engine was presented to the Cincinnati Fire Department on January 1, 1853, and made 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 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.

The company struggled financially after the Civil War. Shortly after the conflict, the Eagle Ironworks ceased operations, although several firms continue to use the name today.

See Also


  1. Dee, Christine, ed. Ohio's War: The Civil War in Documents. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2007.  
  2. Giglierano, Geoffrey, and Deborah Overmyer, eds. The Bicentennial Guide to Greater Cincinnati: A Portrait of Two Hundred Years. Cincinnati, OH: The Cincinnati Historical Society, 1988.  
  3. Reid, Whitelaw. Ohio in the War: Her Statesmen, Generals and Soldiers. Cincinnati, OH: Clarke, 1895.
  4. Roseboom, Eugene H. The Civil War Era: 1850-1873. Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1944.