By Sarah Abrevaya Stein
The thirst for unique decoration between stylish ladies within the metropoles of Europe and the United States brought on a bustling international alternate in ostrich feathers that flourished from the Eighteen Eighties till the 1st global conflict. while feathers fell out of favor with shoppers, the end result used to be an monetary disaster for plenty of, a world feather bust. during this notable e-book, Sarah Stein attracts on wealthy archival fabrics to convey to mild the widespread and sundry roles of Jews within the feather alternate. She discovers that Jews fostered and nurtured the exchange around the worldwide commodity chain and during the far-flung territories the place ostriches have been reared and plucked, and their feathers have been taken care of, 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. this can be a singular tale of worldwide trade, colonial financial practices, and the increase and fall of a glamorous luxurious merchandise. (20081119)
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Extra resources for Plumes: Ostrich Feathers, Jews, and a Lost World of Global Commerce
Ostriches, of course, were not a target; they, as distinguished from hummingbirds, herons, or egrets, were farmed and not killed for their feathers. ”65 These distinctions mattered little to feather consumers. Once feathers were branded cruel and unfashionable, women buyers were inclined to make no distinction 23 plumes between types of plumes or birds. 66 Even before the full effects of bird protection legislation were felt, the fashion world had reason to turn against feather wearing. World War I was pushing European and American women into the workforce, stimulating demand for more utilitarian clothing—including hats.
Sup p ly, D e m and, and t he Arc o f a Boom a nd Bust Ma r ket Thus far I have suggested that Jews were well represented as purveyors of goods—and ostrich feathers in particular—in the modern international market. I have also speculated that the occlusion of these stories stems, at least in part, from historians’ failure to sufficiently analyze the symbiotic relationship between ethnicity and particular commercial networks. One might rephrase this argument by suggesting that a cultural historian’s perspective may bring something new to the field of economic history.
If many buyers met at the 38 the cape of souther n a fri ca Figure 6. 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.