FOREIGN TRADE: The Feather Merchants

The ostrich feather business has one thing in common with the buggy-whip industry and the horse. All three were ruined by Henry Ford. When women began riding in open automobiles before World War I, they had to discard their majestic hats, crowned with glossy ostrich plumes. That spelled disaster for South Africa's ostrich farmers, who fed and plucked 1,000,000 ostriches every year. On the sun-baked Little Karoo plateau around Oudtshoorn, ostrich capital of the world, farmers killed their birds by the thousands, stripped the rich dark meat from the carcasses for stew. Flocks dwindled to 20,000 birds, and many...

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