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Fire destroys 1929 auto show

Fire destroys 1929 auto show

March 5, 1929: Fire destroys four large tents holding the Los Angeles Auto Show. This panorama, made from two separate prints, was published the next day in the Los Angeles Times.

In a page one story, the Los Angeles Times reported:

Fire starting from a smoldering cigarette broke out at the Los Angeles Auto Show at 4:10 p.m. yesterday, and a half hour later the $1,250,000 display at the corner of Washington and Hill streets, housed in four huge tents, was a mass of smoking embers, charred wood, blazing rubber and twister steel. The loss is covered by a blanket insurance police, officials of the show stated.

The flames originated, according to investigators, in or near the display of the Monocoupe Company, in the northeast corner of Tent No. 2, just in rear of the offices of the show, and near the restrooms…..

When the fire was discovered it was a small red trickle leaping up the hangings to the top of the tent. The flames soon burned a hole in the canvas and the wind whipped the blaze to a fury and it leaped from tent top to tent top.

Firemen, stationed at the show, made a futile attempt to halt the blaze with the use of the extinguishers scattered about the four tents, but found themselves powerless in the first few moments.

Approximately 2500 spectators were in the four tents when the call of fire was sounded, and there appeared to be no stampede to reach the exits….

Light explosions, as gasoline tanks burst on account of the heat, and heavy tires ignited, adding a light hazard to the attempt of the firemen to move some of the cars from the fire.

The Times reported that one electrician “suffered severe burns.” Two firemen with burns were taken to a hospital. Several other firemen were treated at the scene.

On March 8, the Los Angeles Times reported an electrical wire short circuit was the cause of the fire.

Just one day after the fire, the Los Angeles Motor Car Dealers’ Assn. reopened a smaller version of the auto show at the Shrine Auditorium.

The Times published one image of fire damaged autos, but the print or negative has not been located.

March 3, 1929: An overhead view of the Los Angeles Auto Show before the fire. Scan from original glass negative that has stains showing in sky. Credit: Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive/UCLA

March 5, 1929: Spectators watch the fire at the 1929 Los Angeles Auto Show. Credit: Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive/UCLA

March 5, 1929: Crowds surround the Los Angeles Auto Show grounds as smoke rises from the remains of tents and vehicles. Credit: Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive/UCLA

Full coverage of the 2011 L.A. Auto Show


  1. November 18, 2011, 7:51 am

    Wonderful pictures! What a great look back at early Los Angeles. The top picture shows a fabulous line of automobiles that would now be the envy of any classic car collector. What year was the Shrine Auditorium built? I remember my father taking us to see hobby shows at the Shrine in the 50's. There is so much history in this town.

  2. November 22, 2011, 10:53 pm

    Glad the "Blanket Insurance Police" (sic) were on the job.

  3. April 11, 2012, 10:40 pm

    I recently purchased a panoramic view of the aftermath of this fire. I'm wondering if these are the pictures that the Times are missing?

  4. November 14, 2013, 5:07 pm

    I was at the Long Beach Car-Truck Swap Meet this last weekend (Nov. 11,13) and there was a gentleman there that was selling a panorimic photo (a copy I'm Sure) of the aftermath of the fire. It looked like it was taken from the side or back of the tent area and clearly showed row after row of the car wreckage. If anyone is interested I think he was in row A and I'd only guess that he's there every show. I probably should have bought a copy but I didn't – they were $10…

    By: blayzor@sbcglobal

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