A Trip to the California Alligator Farm in 1927

This vintage film is proof that, yes, Los Angeles did indeed have an alligator farm. It opened in 1907 in Lincoln Heights near Mission Road. Hundreds of alligators of all sizes entertained the crowds. The big ones gave children rides, slipped down slides and spun in shallow ponds. When their time came, some had a second life as finely-crafted handbags and briefcases.

The California Alligator Farm was owned by Francis Earnest and Joe Campbell who made a good living from the thousands of humans who plunked down 25-cents to see the reptiles up close and personal. In 1953, the California Alligator Farm moved to Buena Park near Knott’s Berry Farm. It closed in 1984 after attendance dwindled.

This film footage from the Prelinger Archives was shot by William Horsley Film Labs in Hollywood in 1927. A lot has changed since then — namely a rise in lawsuits and liability insurance that would surely make this kind of enterprise impractical today.

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