33 Unbelievable Vintage Photos From The Heyday Of Alligator Farms

Published July 27, 2017
Updated December 15, 2021

These surreal photos of alligator farms from the early 20th century capture the heyday of this bizarre trend that swept across the United States.

Girl Looking At Alligators
Alligator Farms Guide Fence
Alligator Girl Playing
Alligators Playing
33 Unbelievable Vintage Photos From The Heyday Of Alligator Farms
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Back in the days when there was no internet, our ancestors found numerous ways to stay entertained. Some of these ways were much, much weirder than others.

Take alligator farms, for example. Crowds would gather at these huge tourist attractions to watch alligators be fed with live chickens and to hold baby gators in their own hands.

Such entertainment largely started with the first alligator farm to open in the United States, Florida's St. Augustine Alligator Farm, which first opened its doors in 1893. Not long after opening, this farm became a must-see attraction for tourists and locals alike.

Naturally, news of this curious, albeit very popular, farm spread all over the country and men with entrepreneurial talent were soon opening up their own alligator farms.

Two such crafty men who saw great opportunity in alligator farms were Francis Earnest and Joe "Alligator" Campbell. The pair soon opened up the Los Angeles Alligator Farm, which proved extremely popular — perhaps due to the fact that one could ride a saddled alligator around the farm or the fact that the farm was also home to a gift shop that sold alligator skin shoes, wallets, and other consumer goods.

However, those that lived near the Los Angeles Alligator Farm were less than thrilled to have these creatures as their neighbors. The alligators' nocturnal screeches were a nuisance but the noise was nothing compared to finding an alligator in your backyard after a rainstorm flooded the nearby reservoir and spilled into the farm, giving the gators a chance to escape. As a result, in 1954, the farm moved further from residential neighborhoods to Buena Park, California.

However, the farm's popularity dropped and it was closed down in 1984. In the ensuing decades, many alligator farms have faced allegations of animal abuse and incurred the wrath of activists who are infuriated at the thousands of alligators killed each year in order to make luxury items.

Nevertheless, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm is still in business today and is now home to venomous snakes, ostriches, and other animals as well. Nowadays, however, the farm is nowhere near as fun as it used to be — provided that riding around on a saddled alligator is your idea of fun.

Next, why not check out other entertainment options that were available to our ancestors, such as vintage circus and freak shows.

Laura Martisiute
Laura Martisiute is a freelance writer based in Tramore, Ireland. In her spare time, she likes to explore secret beaches, pet cats, and read.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Martisiute, Laura. "33 Unbelievable Vintage Photos From The Heyday Of Alligator Farms." AllThatsInteresting.com, July 27, 2017, https://allthatsinteresting.com/alligator-farms. Accessed May 18, 2024.