Friday, January 6, 2012

Golden Gate Ostrich Farm

The unique scene of plucking ostriches will be seen tomorrow afternoon at 3 o'clock at the Golden Gate ostrich farm, Forty-seventh avenue and Balboa street. The plumes are clipped about three inches from the body, the bird being blindfolded. The operation is painless. The two largest birds at the farm are Bob Fitzsimmons, the $5000 beauty, and William Jennings Bryan. Ostrich plucking is considerable of a novelty for San Francisco.

- Article from The San Fransisco Call of April 19 1913. -
Golden Gate Ostrich Farm
Certificate for 5 Shares of $10 each

Issued 26th Nov 1912
double-click to enlarge

The beginning of ostrich farming in California
One of the first ostrich farmers in America, if not the first, was the Englishman Edwin Cawston. He imported 50 ostriches from South Africa: 18 of them survived the journey. Cawston opened his farm in South Pasadena in 1886. 

This share certificate from the African Ostrich Farm and Feather Company,incorporated in Arizona, was issued in 1912.
source : William Harper from
Old Stock Yard

Ostriches were farmed for their high quality leather and for the feathers.  But ostrich farms soon became a popular tourist destination. Guests could feed the birds and could be taken for ostrich drawn carriage rides (see here). Boys could ride the birds on the back and women could buy leather products and feather hats in the farm's shop. In those days women wore an ostrich feather hat as a sign of refinement and wealth.
I've seen once a share of the Cawston Ostrich Farm on an auction. Unfortunately, I have no image available.

Plucking of the birds at the Golden Gate Ostrich Farm.
Photograph from the article (see intro) in The San Fransisco Call of Apr 1913
Source: Chronicling America

French plumes and the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition
The Golden Gate Ostrich Farm was incorporatied on the 14th of November 1912 in San Fransisco.The capital of 75000 USD was represented by 7500 shares. The ostrich farm was located in the block bounded by Forty-sixth and Forty-seventh, Balboa and Sutro avenues. Tourists visiting the beach and the many amusement attractions in the area could visit the farm against an admission fee of 10c. The farm had to pay a license of $6 per quarter on the exhibition of animals and birds to the city. More income was generated with the selling of ostrich feather plumes.  Plumes, 18 inches long, were sold as white French plumes at $5. The farm was set up as the nucleus for the ostrich exhibit at the exposition in 1915.

Two of the company's ads in the The San Fransisco Call
Apr 20 1913 and Oct 29 A913
source: Chronicling America

double-click to enlarge

Eventually long after the exposition and when ostrich plumes became less popular, the property was torn down and was incorporated into Playland-at-the-Beach, the amusement park at the San Fransisco's ocean side. I could not find any confirmation on this, but likely the animals became part of the nucleus of the San Fransisco Zoological Gardens.


Reference links

This ostrich was probably named Bob Fitzsimmons (see intro).
He was photographed about 100 years ago.
In 1912 the picture  was included in the design of a share certificate :  
an achievement matched by very few of us.


  1. It's been a pleasure reading your blog. I have bookmarked your website so that I can come back & read more in the future as well.

  2. I agree with PSD to Magento, great blog. Any other zoo stock/share items would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for the informative blog.

    Wade Burck