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First photo published in the Los Angeles Times

First photo published in the Los Angeles Times

Dec. 8, 1898: Fire burns the Standard Oil Company plant in East Los Angeles.

This one-column photo was one of two taken of the fire and published in the Dec. 9, 1898, Los Angeles Times. The two images were the first photographs published in the paper using a new halftone method.

An article in that day’s Times reported:

The fire which destroyed the Standard Oil Company’s plant on San Fernando street was not quenched in a hurry. At 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon, twenty-four hours after the conflagration began, the flames were still leaping and roaring like an infuriated lion endeavoring to break from his cage. The fire was caged sure enough, for the firemen with admirable skill, kept it confined to the oil works, and gradually drove it into closer and closer quarters.

All day long and throughout the evening the pillar of fire and smoke that formed such a grand spectacle the previous evening and night continued to reach from earth to sky, and people as far distant as Pasadena, as well as those near by, knew that the hungry flames had not yet devoured all of their prey. So long as there was a barrel of oil within reach of the fire there was no hope of staying the furious onslaught of the ravaging element. …

In an era before cars and freeways, the Los Angeles Railway Company profited from the fire. The Times reported: “The streetcars passing close by the fire carried thousands of passengers who took a ride for the sole purpose of seeing the roaring flames.”

A copy of the second photo has not been located in the archives.

scott.harrison@latimes.com

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