History of the Pink Flamingo

The history of the pink flamingo can be traced back to 1946 when a company called Union Products started manufacturing “Plastics for the Lawn”. But their products had one problem: They were only two-dimensional.

In 1956, the Leominster, Massachusetts hired a young designer named Don Featherstone. Although Don was a serious sculptor and classical art student, his first project was to redesign their popular duck into the third dimension. Don used a live duck as his model and after five months of work, the duck was retired to a local park.

His next project would prove to be his most famous. He couldn’t get his hands on real flamingos, so he used photographs from a National Geographic in its place. He sculpted the original out of clay, which was then used to make a plaster cast. The original design called for detailed wooden legs, but they proved to be too costly and were replaced by the metal ones still seen today. While the exact date was never recorded, the first pink flamingo was born some time during 1957.
The late 1950’s just happened to be perfect timing for the plastic flamingo. America was moving to the suburbs. Industry was convincing America that a natural lawn was one that was mowed and treated with chemicals. And, every lawn needed a lawn ornament.

The 1960’s were not as friendly to the pink flamingo. There was a rebellion against everything man made. It was a time to go back to nature. The plastic flamingo quickly became the prototype of bad taste and anti-nature. By 1970, even Sears had removed the pink-feathered bird from its catalog.

In 1984, Miami Vice kicked the sales of pink flamingos into full throttle. For the first time ever, Union Plastics sold more flamingos than they did ducks. Today they are sold for just about every purpose. They are purchased for use as wedding decorations, housewarming gifts, fundraising tools and as replacements for reindeer at Christmas time.
Some people actually travel with their pink flamingos. The plastic birds go camping, hiking, skiing, and mountain biking. Entire web sites are devoted to the travels of these artificial creatures.

We all know that what is art to one isn’t to the next. Bans have been placed on pink flamingos all over the country. As a result, Union Plastics was forced to introduce a blue flamingo to circumvent the rules. Of course, these communities then changed the laws to ban all plastic flamingos.

Today Hundreds of thousands are sold each year in stores and through mail order. Authentic flamingos always have Don Featherstone’s signature under their tails. Each has a yellow beak with a black tip and they are only sold in pairs.  Edited from – http://www.uselessinformation.org/pink_flamingo/index.html


About David Halbach

Assistant Director of the James R. Connor University Center, UW-Whitewater.
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