Throwback Thursday | Feather Fashion & More!

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, women’s ostrich feather fashion is all the rage!

PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | News | Franchon & Marco’s vaudeville show features the Sunkist Beauties at the Rialto Theater, South Pasadena (1927)

Rick Thomas Collection | Franchon & Marco’s vaudeville show features the Sunkist Beauties at the Rialto Theater, South Pasadena (1927)

Once upon a time, ostrich feather accessories were an everyday staple in women’s fashion. South Pasadena’s Cawston Ostrich Farm sold ostrich feather products to consumers by mail at factory-direct prices.

PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | News | Ostrich feather in a box, Cawston Ostrich Farm (1919)
PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | News | Magazine advertisement – Cawston Ostrich Farm (1911)

Ostrich feathers: Simple. Fluffy. And dare I say, fashionable and elegant? Today, you might see such plumes attached to a feather duster.

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Disneyland of its day

Before there was a Disneyland or Knotts Berry Farm, South Pasadena was a tourist designation due to its close proximity to a variety of winter attractions. Guests of the Raymond hotel in our city enjoyed taking day trips to the San Gabriel Mission, Southland beaches, El Monte’s Lion Farm, Pasadena’s Busch Gardens, Hollywood movie sets, Mt. Lowe Railroad, and South Pasadena’s Cawston Ostrich Farm.

The Cawston Ostrich Farm became a highly-successful amusement park. Some of the features included, a Japanese Tea House, semi-tropical gardens, ostrich rides on bareback, feeding ostriches whole oranges, factory tours, and a gift shop offering souvenirs and feather fashion accessories.

Note: Today, an industrial park and work/live lofts occupy the pizza-slice shaped property (commonly known as the Cawston Tract) bordered by Pasadena Ave., Sycamore Ave. (“the pizza crust”), and the Metro Gold Line tracks (formerly the route of the famed Santa Fe Super Chief and earlier transcontinental trains).

Ostrich Farm Lofts located at 1010 Sycamore Ave. On the site, a historical marker is located at the Pasadena/Sycamore bus stop, and there is a life-size ostrich statue situated in front of the building’s lobby entrance – commissioned by the loft developers to honor the history of the farm. The only structure that remains from the original ostrich farm is the stone wall near the statue. The heritage oak tree across the street is the sole living survivor of the days when South Pasadena was home to the world-famous Cawston Ostrich Farm.

Throwback Thursday is written and produced by Rick Thomas


Rick Thomas
Author Rick Thomas is the former museum curator and vice-chair of education for the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation. He served on the South Pasadena Natural Resources Commission, helping to maintain a strict policy protecting the city’s great old-growth trees. Using touchstone photographs from his own collection—one of the San Gabriel Valley’s largest accumulations of historical images and artifacts—as well as national, state, and local historical archives, Thomas provides a window to his city’s past and an understanding of why its preservation is so important.