Posted in Business, Elmhurst, Fruitvale, Uncategorized

Ostrich Farm in Oakland

Ostrich farming was promoted as a sound investment over a century ago.
The farms, well documented on postcards, and were tourist attractions.

Ostriches were brought to the United States in the early 1880s from Africa. In the wild, they lived in warm, dry climates. Southern California seemed to have conditions similar to their natural African environment. By the late 1890s, there were eight locations in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Deigo counties.

The popularity of feathers in women’s fashion made raising the birds an attractive investment.

Farm in Oakland 

In the fall of 1907, San Francisco newspapers ran an ad campaign for stock investment in an ostrich farm in Oakland. 

In July of 1908, W.H.” Harvey” Bentley of the Bentley Ostrich Farm in San Diego County announced the opening of a branch in the Elmhurst District (sometimes Fruitvale) of Oakland at East 14th and High Street.

Bentley Ostrich Farm East 14th (now International Blvd) and High Streets Oakland, California
Photographer: Cheney Photo Advertising Company c 1913

It opened on August 30th of 1908. It featured birds named Mr. and Mrs “George Dewey” (Admiral at the battle of Manila Bay) and the other Spanish American War hero from the Cuba campaign, “Fighting Bob” Evans commander of the Great White Fleet.

Forty-six birds compromised the original herd.

Could this be George or Bob?

In 1910 it was announced that the addition of a factory to their local salesroom and yards. Which meant the hats were made in Oakland and not San Diego. For the years 1907 to 1911, ostrich plumage on women’s hats was at its peak and all the rage.

Bentley Ostrich Farm East 14th (now International Blvd) and High Streets Oakland, California
Photographer: Cheney Photo Advertising Company c 1911

New Name

In January of 1912, the owner of the Bently Ostrich Farm, was killed in an auto accident near the San Diego farm.

Oakland Tribune Sep 21, 1913

His son sold the farm to a group of Oakland investors.

View of main entrance to the Golden State Ostrich Farm;
Souvenir Publishing Co 1915

The name was changed to Golden State Ostrich Farm in 1913.

;

The farm had spacious ground floor offices and salesroom. In the sales there was a magnificent display of plumes in all sizes, prices and colors.

Title: Salesroom and office [picture] : Golden State Ostrich Farm, East 14th and High streets 1910
Collection: Selections from the Collections of the Oakland History Room and the Maps Division of the Oakland Public Library
Date of access: May 31 2020 10:32
Permalink: https://calisphere.org/item/ark:/13030/kt0p3022h1/

With the coming of World War I, as American and European women entered the workforce, utilitarian clothing replaced the flamboyant fashions of the early 1900s. Broader hats were pinned up with a broach or artificial flower.

Oakland Tribune 1909

Plucking is Painless”

Oakland Tribune May 01, 1952

The bird is shoved into a corner by several men. A hood is placed over the birds head. The plume is cut leaving about an inch of quill in the flesh. The quill would soon fall out.

Bankruptcy

Golden State Ostrich Farm in Oakland filed for bankruptcy in early 1915. 

“Whole Ostrich for the Price of a Feather”

 The press announcement said it was now cheaper to buy the entire ostrich than the amount once paid for the feathers to adorn a hat.

The ostrich farms in northern California had all but failed by 1915. The “industry” had a brief heyday, and in the end, defeat by war and a significant fashion change in hats.

The End

Author:

II have been an Oakland history buff since going on an Oakland Heritage Alliance Tour of the Fernwood Neighborhood in the Montclair District of Oakland, in the mid-'80s. On that tour, I learned that there use to be a train (Sacramento Northern) that ran through Montclair in the early 1900s and that people lived the area as early as 1860s — been hooked ever since. Since then, I have spent a lot of time looking into the history of Montclair, and I have learned a lot. I feel this will be the best way to get it out of my head and onto paper.

2 thoughts on “Ostrich Farm in Oakland

  1. Thanks, Dorothy—how interesting. How did you stumble upon this? The part about ostrich feathers for hats led me down the rabbit hole—types, classifications, sellers, blah, blah—my head was spinning. I’m sorry things didn’t work out for the Golden State Ostrich Farm; times change. It’s hard to imagine a burgeoning ostrich farm in Oakland these days. Seems that South Africa is a center for ostrich feathers. Anyway, thanks for another interesting insight into Oakland history!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, Bob, I had seen the postcards before and thought it was interesting. The other day I came across an article while looking up something else and decided to write about it. That has happened a few times. My piece on the “Fence Wars” or “The Forgotten Tunnel” just popped out at me when looking for something else. I want to keep my blog interesting than just writing about what interests me. Rabbit holes can be entertaining at times.

    Like

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