Throwback Thursday | South Pasadena Feathers of Stage and Screen

Throwback Thursday is written and produced by Rick Thomas

PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | News | Sunkist Beauties posed for a publicity photograph promoting the Franchon & Marco’s production of the extravaganza Indian Summer Idea (1927)

South Pasadena’s Cawston Ostrich Farm (1896-1935) was world famous for several reasons: selling feathers direct to consumers at wholesale prices (mail order and retail), major Southern California tourist attraction, and home of the world’s first successful solar power experiment for commercial use.

Cawston also recognized that his farm’s proximity to Hollywood had many cross-promotion opportunities. The glamour and glitz of stage and the silver screen made our town’s “feather farm extraordinaire” a natural fit for top actresses and starlets alike.

PHOTO: South Pasadena Public Library | News | Actress Helen Jerome Eddy and Cawston’s general manager Herbert Vatcher Jr. (1920)

Actress Helen Jerome Eddy and Herbert Vatcher Jr. pose with ostrich eggs at the Cawston Ostrich Farm in South Pasadena. Eddy began her acting career during the silent film era and went on to appear in such films as Strike Up the Band and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Vatcher served as the farm’s president and general manager.

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PHOTO: Courtesy Jacqui Trott-Bally | News | Actress Belva Leroy on a model shoot at Cawston Ostrich Farm, South Pasadena (1933)

Belva Leroy was featured in several movies, June Allison’s stand in, and auditioned for Scarlett in Gone with The Wind. She performed on the stage as Boots LeRoy, a western cowgirl who could sing and ride. She also played roles as the exotic Spanish singer Belva DeLaRoy.

PHOTO: South Pasadena Public Library | News | Actress Dorothy Dwan rests a large ostrich feather plume on her shoulder. Photo reads: “With best wishes to Cawstons, Dorothy Dwan”
PHOTO: South Pasadena Public Library | | Actress Blanche Le Clair modeling an ostrich feather cape provided by the Cawston Ostrich Farm
PHOTO: South Pasadena Public Library | News | Actress Jean Harlow poses with a large ostrich feather fan supplied by Cawston for this dramatic photograph


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.