Africa—Cape of Good Hope, Ostrich Farm


This photograph of an ostrich farm in South Africa is from the Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection at the Library of Congress. Frank G. Carpenter (1855–1924) was an American writer of books on travel and world geography, whose works helped to popularize cultural anthropology and geography in the United States in the early years of the 20th century. Consisting of photographs taken and gathered by Carpenter and his daughter Frances (1890–1972) to illustrate his writings, the collection includes an estimated 16,800 photographs and 7,000 glass and film negatives. Carpenter's New Geographical Reader: Africa (1924) explained that ostriches were raised for their feathers, which were used in a variety of products. “Most of the ostrich feathers of commerce come from tame ostriches, which are reared on farms. In gathering the wild feathers, the ostrich is killed by the hunter, and each bird furnishes but one crop of plumes. The feathers of the tame ostrich are plucked every seven or eight months, so that one bird gives many crops. Until within the last century it was not know that ostriches could be domesticated. Then an English farmer near Cape Town caught some little ones and tamed them. He kept them in fields with fences so high that they could not jump over, and fed them, plucking the feathers twice every year. The ostriches grew, they dug out nests in the sand, and laid eggs and hatched them. They thrived so well that the business became profitable.”

Last updated: September 29, 2014