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These big birds could reach a full ten feet for an orange. This postcard gives a scene at a Jacksonville ostrich farm. The card dates from between 1901 and 1917.
It's a cliché, but how things change over the years! This photo shows the front entrance to the Florida Ostrich Farm on Talleyrand Avenue, which runs along the St. Johns River, east of today's Alltel Stadium. The picture dates from between 1901 to 1909. A century ago, more trees & residences spruced up the Talleyrand area. Nowadays, Talleyrand Avenue is a dusty, mostly shadeless road, bordered by industrial & transportation businesses.
What was sold in the Farm Salesroom? Everything ostrich: ostrich eggshells, ostrich feathers, ostrich fans, ostrich pompoms, ostrich boas, ostrich stoles, and ostrich plumes of a variety of colors. Visitors could take back unique keepsakes of the big bird ranch. This postcard is from the Florida Ostrich Farm in Jacksonville. The fortress-type walls probably surrounded the park's second location on Talleyrand Avenue. The attraction moved across the street to its new digs in 1912. Transporting 200 of the gawky big birds was no easy job, according to a newspaper at the time. Getting back to the souvenirs at the Farm Salesroom: The sole competitor to an boa made of ostrich feathers, boasted the Florida Ostrich Farm, is the fur boa, "whose only recommendation is its warmth." As the Ostrich Farm explained, "The ostrich boa is peculiar. It is both warm and cool. An ostrich feather boa is light and when thrown back a little from the neck does not feel uncomfortably warm, yet give a slight protection to the shoulders. When drawn up close to the neck, it is as warm as fur and is much cleaner and has no odor. Our boas are not to be compared to those commonly found in department and dry goods stores... We have studied the boa question for years and have perfected a method of making it superior..."
Someone sent this postcard from Jacksonville on October 11, 1911. The photo on the card dates from between 1907 and 1911.
Wouldn't kids today like to cruise along in an ostrich-drawn cart? This is Oliver W., Jr, the "driving ostrich." He entertained visitors at Dixieland Park, an attraction located in the vicinity of today's Hilton Hotel on the Southbank. The picture dates from between 1910 to 1919. The building in the background was the Park Theater Studio, once used for filming silent movies. It's long gone.
This postcard picture comes from an ostrich farm in Jacksonville. An African American ostrich jockey rides on the back of one of the plumed birds. One hundred years ago, people flocked to ostrich races. The note on this postcard reads, "Will be in Ocala Wed. Didn't have time to stopp (sic) over."

Ostrich Farms

BIRD POWER — Ostriches can prove pretty ornery, but that didn’t keep them from being displayed in some offbeat attractions. During the late 1800s & early 1900s, ostrich farms dotted Florida, and Jacksonville boasted its share. Attracting both locals & tourists, the parks featured ostriches that were ridden like racehorses. The big birds also pulled small wagons & carriages. They were harnessed singly or occasionally in pairs.

During the season when the females laid their eggs, the male ostriches suffered mood swings. They could get testy, lashing out with their claws. An ostrich attack can prove fatal to humans. There are ways, though, to ward off an assault, according to the ostrich farms. A person can achieve some safety by lying flat, since ostriches can only could kick dangerously at a height of three feet. This is why a little fox terrier dog can send one of the big birds scurrying, even though an ostrich might charge a man on horseback.

Ostriches also proved destructive. A tall board fence surrounded the Florida Ostrich Farm on Talleyrand Avenue in East Jacksonville. This fence kept a couple of carpenters busy, for they constantly renailed boards that the ostriches kicked off. The owners of the park learned their lesson: Replace the boards with the nails on the inside!

Fast Facts about Ostriches

  • The gawky birds are the second fastest land animal in the world. They can speed along at 40 miles per hour, and they can maintain this pace for at least 30 minutes. Only cheetahs can outrun an ostriches.
  • Ostriches feature enormous feathers, but they can’t fly.
  • Ostriches produce the strongest commercially available leather in the world, as well as some of the most gorgeous feathers.
  • Ostriches are not an endangered species, since there are at least 2 million worldwide.
  • Ostrich meat is a red meat. It’s almost fat free, and it’s very low in calories & cholesterol. It resembles beef, and you cook it almost the same way. Ostrich meat, though, has its own distinctive flavor. You may’ve had the chance to try it, since several Jacksonville restaurants have recently served it.
  • Ostriches can boast of the best feed-to-weight ratio gain of any land animal in the world. Farmers raise them in at least 50 countries. Ostrich ranches can be found from Africa to Alaska.
  • Ostriches look through the largest eyes of any land animal. Each eye can measure up to 2 inches in diameter.
  • Don’t believe one old myth: Ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand.

~written by Glenn Emery

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