Plumes: Ostrich Feathers, Jews, and a Lost World of Global by Sarah Abrevaya Stein

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By Sarah Abrevaya Stein

The thirst for unique decoration between trendy girls within the metropoles of Europe and the United States caused a bustling international alternate in ostrich feathers that flourished from the Eighties till the 1st global warfare. while feathers fell out of favor with shoppers, the outcome was once an fiscal disaster for lots of, a world feather bust. during this awesome publication, Sarah Stein attracts on wealthy archival fabrics to convey to gentle the popular and sundry roles of Jews within the feather alternate. She discovers that Jews fostered and nurtured the alternate around the international commodity chain and in the course of the far-flung territories the place ostriches have been reared and plucked, and their feathers have been looked after, exported, imported, auctioned, wholesaled, and eventually synthetic for sale.From Yiddish-speaking Russian-Lithuanian feather handlers in South Africa to London brands and wholesalers, from rival Sephardic households whose feathers have been imported from the Sahara and traded around the Mediterranean, from New York’s reduce East aspect to entrepreneurial farms within the American West, Stein explores the main points of a remarkably vivid but ephemeral tradition. it is a singular tale of world trade, colonial monetary practices, and the increase and fall of a glamorous luxurious merchandise. (20081119)

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Additional resources for Plumes: Ostrich Feathers, Jews, and a Lost World of Global Commerce

Sample text

45 But the ostrich feather did not share the same fate as the diamond. 46 Similar attempts at influencing consumers were undertaken a decade or so earlier by those in the feather industry, but these efforts were insubstantial, underfunded, and ill-timed. 47 What made the ostrich feather so appealing to turn-of-the-century consumers? Why did it then fall so precipitously from grace? 19 plumes American and European women’s thirst for feathers as objects of adornment undergirded the vigorous modern global market in ostrich plumes.

Hekkie Schoeman, a prominent Boer ostrich farmer, described being shocked to discover firsthand how much ostrich plumes were commanding at auction in London. He returned home determined to sell his feathers directly to brokerage firms in London, thereby eliminating the need for the services of the Jewish feather buyer on whom he normally relied. Schoeman prepared his own bundles for auction and, after first asking his regular buyer what the plumes were worth, sent them to London himself. To his great dismay, he discovered that the feathers earned him less at auction than his buyer originally offered.

Joseph Lazarus (1886–1945), ostrich feather merchant, ca. 1911. Lazarus immigrated to Oudtshoorn as a young child from Russian Lithuania, entering the feather trade in cooperation with his father, Samuel, and brother, Isaac. ”57 To others, cooperation between feather buyers was bald conspiracy. 58 The real tenor of feather buyers’ cooperation no doubt fluctuated over time and in accordance with market conditions, but it is easy to imagine that the quality of these relations tended to lie between Feldman’s and Wallace’s 39 plumes accounts.

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