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Oliver W.: 1905

Oliver W.: 1905

Florida circa 1905. "Oliver W., the famous trotting ostrich, Florida Ostrich Farm, Jacksonville." 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Co. View full size.


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Roosevelt Connection?

I live in Jacksonville and have done a bit of research on the Ostrich Farm. From what I've been able to dig up, Oliver W. Jr. was named after a cousin of Theodore Roosevelt who made a locally-celebrated visit to Jacksonville sometime shortly after the turn of the 20th century.

Oliver W. Roosevelt later had a son, also an Oliver W. Jr.

(Full disclosure: I appropriated Oliver W. Jr.'s name and image-- the ostrich, that is-- to serve as my handle and avatar on my favorite model railroad forum.)

Precendence and right of way

With that kind of propulsion I could imagine that there would have been a peculiar pecking order on the roads. Literally. Regulators, where are beak bumpers?

TheGeezer, they say "like venison." And lean and low cholesterol, too. Too good to be burnt on the road?

Oh, the embarrassment

If Oliver W. really enjoyed his job, don't you think he'd reveal his last name?

[Really! And who gives an ostrich a last name anyway, and then tries to protect his privacy? - Dave]

As Seen on Postcards

Postcard from my own collection, postmarked 1911:

Miami Ostrich Races

I knew an elderly man some years back who lived in Miami around that time and he had photos depicting ostrich races. The fellow would laugh with delight while talking about that action.

Hitch Up the Ostrich

Camp and Plant, October 4, 1902.

“Go and hitch up the ostrich,” is not at all an absurd command on an ostrich farm. There these great birds are often harnessed to a carriage, and make fairly good substitutes for horses. Although they cannot draw a heavy load, their speed is a recommendation.

At Jacksonville, Florida, there is a bird named Oliver W. that can run a mile in two minutes and twenty-two seconds. His owners claim that he is more satisfactory than a horse, because he eats less, never shies at anything, never runs away, and goes steadily at a good pace without laziness or fatigue.

This particular ostrich appears to like his work. When the little carriage is brought out he comes running toward it at full speed, with both wings spread out, ready to have the harness put on.

On one occasion a cyclist tried to pass Oliver W. on a long, smooth stretch of road. He came up behind the carriage, thinking to get ahead and escape the dust. Oliver W. thought differently. He threw his head high in the air, gave a flap with his wings, and went forward with a speed that astonished the cyclist. Putting forth more effort, the latter made another attempt to pass the ostrich, but the faster the pedals of the bicycle moved the faster sped the long legs of the bird.

It so happened that the cyclist had a record as a fast rider, and to be distanced by an ostrich was not to his liking. For two miles he tried to pass his feathered rival, but was then obliged to give up the race, defeated.

Some fast horses have tried conclusions with Oliver W., who seems to like nothing better than testing their speed, starting slowly to make them think it easy to distance him, and then gradually increasing his pace.

Custom rig

I assume that this is a one-of-a-kind rig, since there cannot possibly have been much of a market these things. Ever. I'm amazed that anyone agreed to have their picture taken while sitting in it.

A follow-up comment: I don't see any brakes on this thing. I wonder how one brings it to a stop?

Famous Fowl!

"Oliver" must have one heckuva great story! I used to have a stereopticon (3-D) photo of him. I seem to recall that the sulky he was pulling in that picture held two people, though.

Too close for comfort

If ostriches have the same output as most birds, that surrey is a bit too close for comfort.

Looking at that bird's legs...which can deliver deadly kicks...make me wonder if they taste like chicken?


Don't horses have four legs and carts have two wheels?

Fido not impressed

The canine on the front porch is looking the other way, maybe he has seen it all before.

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