Way before Disneyland, an ostrich farm in Pasadena was a huge tourist attraction.
Edwin Cawston courted the early-20th-century public’s fascination with exotic foreign creatures when he began raising ostriches, for more than the use of their feathers in the clothing industry. When Cawston brought the enormous, flightless, African birds onto prime real estate in the Arroyo Seco of South Pasadena, Los Angeles County, more than a few observers thought that the looniest bird might be him.
But Cawston was determined to showcase struthio camelus, the biggest bird in the world at 8 vertical feet and 350 pounds. The Cawston Ostrich Farm soon became one of the most popular Southern California attractions, drawing millions to watch people ride the birds bareback at a cruising speed of 35 miles per hour. Cawston supplied ostrich plumes for budget-minded consumers as well as fancy feathers for Vaudeville dancers, movie actresses, and even European queens, becoming a great promoter and showman of his time.