Sunday, January 22, 2012

Day 22: Gardens & Gators & Lions, Oh My!

Today was a very productive day. I completed the section of the book chapter that I was working on. This was my part of the "Gardens & Gators" chapter.

I love the fact that in writing a book about Los Angeles agriculture, even in its earlier years, LA shows its quirkiness and actually marketed ostrich, alligator and lion "farms" like they were part of the rest of agriculture and like it was normal. These "farms" were incredibly popular, and some of them were in business for over 40 years, and Gay's Lion Farm was in business for almost 60 years!

Not really farms in the traditional sense, although they did breed ostriches, lions, and alligators, they were actually the first amusement parks in southern California, some of them having elaborate gardens and exhibits that seem to have been the inspiration for later amusement parks like Disneyland.

The Cawston Ostrich Farm is just one example. At the height of the ostrich feather craze (late 19th century and early 1900s), Cawston had a retail store at 313 Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, and had stores in San Francisco, Chicago and New York. And, in 1906, the Cawston Ostrich Farm was incorporated for $1 million, that's a lot of ostrich plumes. 

The ostrich farms let visitors take a ride in an ostrich led carriage or to ride an ostrich bareback, and the California Alligator Farm actually encouraged people to walk alongside and even ride alligators and one of the most popular attractions was the "trained" alligator that slid down a slide into a pool. Of course this was in the days before we were smart enough to stop such animal abuse. 

Here's a couple of things I came across in researching these attractions. I am buying up brochures and booklets like these to use in our book.
Cawston Ostrich Farm, South Pasadena

California Alligator Farm, Lincoln Park

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