Created in 1957, the hot-pink plastic flamingo rose to great popularity to perch atop quintessential kitsch; but before it became the it-thing of campy Americana, this lawn bird stood for something.
The pink flamingo wasn’t the only tacky thing to come out of the 1950s. In fact, the year art-school grad Don Featherson created this hot-pink lawn ornament for Union Products, other got-to-have gaudy items hit shelves too. Ahem: polyester pants and vinyl wallpaper.
When the pink flamingo hit store shelves for a whopping $2.76 a pair, American homeowners were obsessed with their lawns. Perfect lawns were as American as apple pie, symbolizing the hard-won American Dream and leisure.
Around this time, post World War II, new construction left many neighborhoods looking cookie-cutter with home after home nearly identical in hundreds of subdivisions across America. Cue the pink flamingo! This lawn bird, ready for showtime, was a simple yet sophisticated way for a house to stand out from the crowd.
The 60’s saw a rise of unrest in the country, including a rebellion against middle class taste. Those so-called hippies rallied against the plastic industries, demanding more natural products. At this time, revered home and garden magazines pretty much begged people to abandon un-natural lawn decor. Out with the garden gnomes and lawn jockeys … and pink flamingos! The new it-thing for lawns was natural-looking rocks and fountains.
By 1970, the pink flamingo was extinct in many stores including Sears.
Fast forward to the early 70’s, and the pink flamingo lawn ornament saw a resurgence. By that time, the plastic bird had become so un-cool, she was cool again. Talk about the ultimate comeback. The hot-pink lawn ornament was even seen as an essential part of American folk art!
By the 80’s, the pink flamingo had crossed over from gaudy to glam, even becoming the elegant heads of croquet mallets on the lawns of the wealthy as premenitioned so artfully in Disney’s 1951 film ALICE IN WONDERLAND.
Before his death in 2015 creator Don Featherstone’s own abode in Massachusetts was home to 57 of his creations as a celebratory homage to the year the pink flamingo hatched. Although many companies now make similar-styled lawn ornaments, only the original design comes with a Featherstone signature. Not ready to own your own? A regal pair resides at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for your viewing pleasure.