The Pink Flamingo is Lawn Kitsch with a Colorful History
What is pink, has four legs and stands about 3 feet tall? Why, a pair of plastic pink flamingoes, of course! These hugely popular lawn ornaments have been gracing the lawns of homes all across America since they were first introduced to the market in 1957.
The creator of the pink plastic lawn flamingo is a Massachusetts resident named Donald Featherstone. While attending the Worcester Art Museum School in Worcester, Massachusetts Donald was hired to work at Union Products, Inc. in Leominster, MA. The plastics manufacturer had contacted the prestigious school in the hope of finding a sculptor that could improve the quality and diversity of their product line: plastic lawn and holiday decorations. Donald sculpted a variety of animals and other figures that were used to create the molds for these products, and among these products was one destined for fame—the pink lawn flamingo.
The timing of the bird’s release couldn’t be better, as American fashion in the late 1950s included pastels and a love of anything tropical. Placing a couple of brightly colored flamingos on your lawn was one way to participate in this trend as well as serving as an easy way to set your yard apart from your neighbor’s. Due to the fame, notoriety, and doubtless kitschiness of his creation, in 1996 Donald Featherstone won the Ig Nobel Prize (in the Art category). This dubious distinction is awarded to those that have engaged in “research that first makes you laugh and then makes you think” and is issued by the Annals of Improbable Research magazine.
But one thing that cannot be denied Donald Featherstone is that he created a part of American culture that is here to stay. The plastic pink lawn flamingo is a favorite lawn ornament (perhaps second only to the lawn gnome). And yet, the popularity of the plastic variety aquatic bird has waxed and waned through the years. Production costs have gone up and resulted in the closing of Union Products in 2006, but the popularity of the pink flamingo has endured (and possibly strengthened) in time for its 55th birthday this year.
Now that this quirky creature has evolved into a symbol of American cultural history, other American companies have taken up the torch to continue the production of our pink-feathered friends. They make an awesome gift and have become very desirable collectibles for people that appreciate this quirky American icon.
Whether used to prank someone by mysteriously appearing on their lawn or used to add some tropical whimsy to your own home, the plastic lawn flamingo is here to stay. It’s a part of our American history, our culture, as well as a symbol of our American optimism and, let’s face it . . . they’re a lot of fun!