Throwback Thursday | The Magnificent Ostrich Feather Plume

South Pasadena’s Cawston Ostrich Farm was the most successful producer of factory-direct feather fashion products in the world

PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | SouthPasadenan.com News | Cawston Ostrich Farm, South Pasadena (1913)

Edwin Cawston, English adventurer and world traveler, was one of the first to realize there was big money to be made ostrich farming in America. With nearby Pasadena winter tourism at an all-time high, he set a goal to attract large numbers of visitors to his extraordinary local attraction.

PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | SouthPasadenan.com News | Ostrich with two attendants, South Pasadena (1926)
PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | SouthPasadenan.com News | Cawston ostrich feather costume (1921)

The ostrich feather “plume” is the basis of all products sold by mail order and at retail stores in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. Ostrich plumes were attached to hats and sewn into long flowing boas and hand-held fans.

PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | SouthPasadenan.com News | Cawston Ostrich feather fan in a box
PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | SouthPasadenan.com News | Cawston feather hat (1928)

The Cawston Ostrich Farm offered high-quality feather fashion to consumers at factory-direct prices. Mail orders were so plentiful Cawston once said his South Pasadena farm received more mail during the holiday than Santa at the North Pole.

PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | SouthPasadenan.com News | Full-page magazine advertisement (1909)
PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | SouthPasadenan.com News | Cawston Advertisement Insert (Spring, 1926)
PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | SouthPasadenan.com News | Cawston Ostrich Farm catalog (1911)
PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | SouthPasadenan.com News | Cawston Ostrich Farm brochure (1908)

Cawston feather products came with an unconditional one year guarantee. To emphasize the superior quality of his plumes, Cawston often referred to the many medals awarded to the South Pasadena farm.

PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | SouthPasadenan.com News | Cawston Brochure back cover (1909)

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.

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