Little is known about the life of British inventor Richard Newsham, but he was almost certainly born too late to have lived through the horrors of the Great Fire of London in 1666. However, Newsham lived at a time when fires were extremely dangerous, with blazes spreading from house to house, destroying entire towns and cities due to the lack of preparation and prevention measures.
In 1708, the British government passed the Parish Pump Act, a law that ordered every parish to keep a water pump for use in extinguishing fires. Unluckily, the water pumps of the time were incredibly ineffective and could not extinguish a fire. Richard Newsham, recognizing a need, took it upon himself to reinvent the hand water pump to protect the citizens of London. His first design was the first piece of fire apparatus that could race to a blaze and shoot water over 135 feet away.
Newsham found immediate success in his invention and soon started his own manufacturing company. He patented the apparatus in 1721, a hand pumper with a twin-cylinder single-acting pump on a wheeled cart. The cistern would be filled by a chain of buckets, also known as a Bucket Brigade, and 10-20 men would work the cross hands to shoot the water towards the blaze.
Soon after, in 1731, the first Newsham hand pumper crossed the Atlantic to arrive in the United States, forever marking Richard Newsham’s invention the first truly effective fire engine.