During the first few decades of the 20th century, the people of Los Angeles had alligator fever. Starting in 1907, alligator rides, feedings, and trained alligator shows were all the rage, thanks to “Alligator Joe” Campbell and Francis Earnest, proprietors of the California Alligator Farm—one of the longest-running, and strangest, amusements in the city of Los Angeles. 

The Farm, which operated from 1907 to 1953 in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of L.A., let guests get terrifyingly close to its reptilian inmates. Smithsonian explains, “Despite signs admonishing visitors not to ‘throw stones at the alligators, spit on, punch or molest them in any way,’ adults and children regularly handled alligators at the farm.” 

Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine any business letting its guests or employees get that close to a bunch of dangerous animals—and of course, something like that would now be very, very illegal—so it’s fascinating to see the Californians of yesteryear just casually hanging out surrounded by gators. So to prove it really happened, here are 10 surreal photos of adults, children, and even a dog, getting up close and personal with alligators:

Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

[h/t Smithsonian]