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What is an Ostrich Feather Duster?

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  • Written By: Gregory Hanson
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 28 August 2016
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An ostrich feather duster is a type of cleaning tool. It is made up of a bundle of ostrich feathers that are bound together and sometimes mounted to a handle. The ostrich feather duster was originally designed for industrial use but has become more of a novelty item and knickknack in the modern world.

South African ranchers were the earliest users of ostrich feather dusters, which were developed in the late 1800s. Ostriches were raised for their feathers, and these were often used in the fashion industry as ornaments on women's hats. The market for such items fluctuated greatly over time, however, and while feathers could command a very high price in good years, in bad years, they were a surplus commodity.

The ostrich feather duster made use of these excess ostrich feathers. The large and durable feathers were ideal for a variety of industrial cleaning tasks. They were also an excellent luxury export product because the feathers were associated with elegant finery, and even a cleaning tool made from them might command a higher price. Ostrich feather dusters emerged on the world market before the outbreak of the World War I, an era in which the houses of the wealthier classes were still staffed with servants, who used the feather dusters to keep shelves, books, and tables free of dust.

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The keeping of servants fell out of fashion in the interwar period, and all manner of small luxuries, such as the ostrich feather duster, became less common during the Great Depression. This feather duster did not completely disappear, however. It could still be found in many households, even if it was less frequently used than it had been in the Edwardian era.

Ostrich feather dusters are still very effective cleaning tools. They are less commonly used for this purpose in the modern world, however, primarily because they are more expensive than a variety of plastic and cotton dusting tools. They are still sold and used, however, and retain a certain aura of Victorian elegance.

The manufacturers of the ostrich feather duster have attempted to keep pace with the modern world. Ostrich feathers are marketed in a wide variety of artificial colors for use in fashions and as props. The same array of colors can be found in ostrich feather dusters as well, for the benefit of consumers who might want the utility of a feather duster in a shade of brilliant magenta that is unavailable in nature.

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