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Plumes: Ostrich Feathers, Jews, and a Lost History of Global Commerce with Sarah Stein

Hosted By: Orange County Community Scholar Program (CSP)

The thirst for exotic ornament among fashionable women in the metropoles of Europe and America prompted a bustling global trade in ostrich feathers that flourished from the 1880s until the First World War. From Yiddish-speaking Russian-Lithuanian feather handlers in South Africa to London manufacturers and wholesalers, from rival Sephardic families whose feathers were imported from the Sahara and traded across the Mediterranean, from New York’s Lower East Side to entrepreneurial farms in southern California, Jews fostered and nurtured the trade across the global commodity chain and throughout the far-flung territories where ostriches were reared and plucked, and their feathers were sorted, exported, imported, auctioned, wholesaled, and finally manufactured for sale. Join us as Sarah Abrevaya Stein shares the singular story of Jewish culture, global commerce, colonial economic practices, and the rise and fall of a glamorous luxury item.

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