New Old Stock early production Don Featherstone flamingos

vintage-flamingoesDid you know that a flock of flamingos is actually called a “flamboyance”? So perfect! Earlier this week, the designer of the iconic, beloved, midcentury flamingo lawn ornaments — Don Featherstone — died. He was 79. The tributes are already pouring in. His hometown newspaper, the Fitchburg (Mass.) Sentinel & Enterprise wrote a lovely, lovely story.  The New York Times put his story on the front page. Rest in serene peace, Don Featherstone.

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Dear Husband and I drove over to Northampton last weekend for a “date Saturday.” Activities included visiting one of my favorite people in retroworld — Retro Genie, who owns a delightful vintage shop on Strong Avenue. While we were chatting away like chatterboxes, she remembered all of a sudden, excitedly, “Oh, I need to show you what I just got!” And then she pulled these beautiful birdies out of her back storage: New Old Stock Don Featherstone Flamingo lawn ornaments. You shoulda heard me Squawk! 

Featherstone flamingo lawn ornaments were introduced for sale in 1958 and to be sure, they are American classics. The book about them says 20 million+ have been sold, and that’s as of 1999.

I think, based on the shipping label, that Jeannie’s NOS birds are from 1971. before 1963. Or maybe later, we seem to have a few expert readers sorting this out — see the comments. This set was still made in its original location — by Union Products in Leominster, Mass. This set was sold by Sears, see the label still on the box. I am a lover of the one-and-only original Featherstone flamingos — you can still buy them today made in the USA. You can find them easily on Amazon.

But, what is so fascinating about Jeannie’s earlybird flamingos is that they are made of a different sort of plastic than the one used today. As I mentioned above, there is a book about the flamingos, and I have a copy. But, it is mostly silly text with lots of photos of the flamingos in all kinds of dress in all kinds of places around the world. I paged through it, and alas, could see no history detailing materials changes over the years.

NOS-lawn-flamingoesJeannie’s flamingos are all smooth plastic-like (compared to today’s). And, they are a softer shade of pink.

Of course, I told Jeannie that here New Old Stock Featherstone flamingos are PRICELESS and that she should only sell them for lotsa lotsa money. Preferably to the Museum of Modern Art.

union-products-flamingoesAbove: The label – which helps us establish the date, because of the zip code. As reader Amy informs:

These are much older than 1971! You can tell by the address label, which reads “Boston 15.” Two-digit postal zone codes were in use 1943-1963. Zip codes were introduced in 1963.

A friend of Jeannie’s found them at a flea market.

retro-flamingoesHere is my itsy history of the Featherstone flamingos. Jeannie’s treasure makes me so very happy. The pair need names, though, don’t you think? Suggestions?

Thank you, Jeannie, for being so wonderful. Follow Retro Genie on Facebook.

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Comments

  1. Mary Elizabeth says

    I see them more as a Flora and Floyd.

    Yes, I do believe the old Leominster ones were closer to a real flamingo pink than the newer ones. Do you know why the real ones are pink? They are actually born white and turn pink gradually from the brine shrimp and algae in their diet.

    Pam, how about having a weekend download of people’s flamingo collectible stuff? Or have you already done that?

    • Lisa Compo says

      I love your idea about the weekend uploader being Flamingo Style. What a fun thing to do as summer comes to an end. Well, Labor Day has come and gone but we are having a chilly day here in northern KY so it really feels like Fall now. I have a little 6 ft Christmas tree in our great room called the “Year Rounder Tree” where I keep lights on it and change the decorations to the current season. In the summer I put lights on it with flip flops and flamingos and have many ornaments of flamingos grilling out, having martinis, laying in lawn chairs etc…wish I had taken a picture of it now. I have the yard flamingos, too–Featherstones from the late 1990s. I move them around from time to time and my next door neighbor always enjoys seeing where they will end up next. I love the idea of seeing everyone’s flamingo stuff. Hope Pam takes the idea. :)

  2. Amy Stoller says

    These are much older than 1971! You can tell by the address label, which reads “Boston 15.” Two-digit postal zone codes were in use 1943-1963. Zip codes were introduced in 1963.

    Enjoy those flamingoes!

    • Dave says

      I have to agree. Zip codes weren’t mandatory in 1963, but a place like Sears would have adopted early on. Also in ’63 the two letter state designation went into effect. In ’71 Mass. would have been MA. These birds are older than you might think based on their shipping label.

  3. Katie B. says

    Seems to me the order and department number are skewed on the label. I think 71 was probably the dept. I love them regardless. They are a pretty shade of pink.

  4. Melanie says

    Ahh, the pink plastic flamingo – the official bird of the City of Madison, WI – no doubt thanks to the famous 1979 prank by the Pail and Shovel Party, who, on the morning of the first day of classes at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, covered the slope of Bascom Hill with 1008 plastic flamingos. A sight to be seen in person, I’m sure. Would love to have me one of those!

  5. Bunny says

    Are these for sale? I reread it twice and can’t figure that part out.

    I have always wanted the vintage color. I simply wouldn’t be happy with the newer ones.

    • pam kueber says

      Jeannie has not put them up for sale yet, as far as I know. I think she should sell them for mucho mucho dinero or better yet – put them in a museum.

  6. Paula Webb says

    They are beauties. I do like these better than the modern ones which have angry faces. Mine (circa 1980’s) went missing in our move almost 2 years ago and still have not been replaced. Note to husband….

  7. Annie B. says

    Let’s name ’em Ike and Mamie.

    Their vintage plastic is so creamy looking; such sweet eyes, too. Ain’t nothin’ like the real thing, baby.

  8. says

    hi pam…thank you so much for the great article..i love it when you come visit me!…you will be the first to know if i decide to sell them…i have grown quite attached in the last few weeks…their eyes are just so beautiful…how about johnny and june ?…ps thank you everyone for teaching me the zipcode thing!…

  9. JKaye says

    I suggest Finn and Ruby for their names, derived from the Latin name for flamingo — Phoenicopterus ruber. What a handsome pair.

  10. tammyCA says

    Sweet find! I really like someone’s suggestion of naming them Ike and Mamie. I have a couple ’40s flamingo pottery..I love the design/color of these. I was pleasantly surprised to see in the latest Atomic Ranch mag a large collection of the pottery in a MCModern house.

  11. jeanne says

    I love their color! What treasures! I would be afraid to put them in my yard. They would be indoor flamingos. I’m a flamingo lover from way-back. I’ve had some stolen from my yard before and they were spotted in the middle of the local high school football field. LOL. I bought a couple new sets a few years ago (had to have a back-up set). I have lots of other Flamingo stuff in my home. :-) Whenever I visit Busch Gardens throughout the years, the Flamingos are always my first stop for a photo op.

  12. Joe Felice says

    Alas, these would today be suitable only for back yards, as someone would steal them. For some reason or other, Italians love flamingos, as do I, and in times gone by, you could always tell where an Italian family lived by looking for flamingos in the front yard. And then they became insanely popular in mid-century culture, along with panthers and poodles. Go figure.

  13. Mary M says

    I had a rude awakening a couple years back…I woke up early one morning, looked out in my front yard – to see 20 plastic flamingos (many with big googly eyes stuck over their real eyes) arrayed tastefully in my yard. It took me many minutes to get up the nerve to go out and make sure they were really there, and not just in my head. There was a sign with them; “You’ve been flocked! Please contribute to the (local no-kill shelter) to get them removed!”. I ended up buying the googly-eye ones outright (at about 10 times their value) but I was so attached by then, just had to have them, sure would like to find some big, authentic ones some day…

  14. Marty says

    About 10 years ago, I was at a local Eckerd pharmacy and they had an endcap full of Featherstone/Union flamingo 2-packs for $10 each. Should’ve bought more than one set.

  15. Carolyn says

    The originals are so much better made than the knock-offs, better, more realistic, more…better.
    Someone has attributed the saying “There goes the neighborhood” to the appearance of the pair in a yard. Me? I’d take that as a compliment!

    • Michele DeGroat says

      I agree! my daughter’s friends on Wall Street chided her about them when they saw a picture and she got embarrassed and insisted on removing them. I thought they were chic but she just thought they were “tacky”. different generation – she doesn’t get it! the originals in the picture above are way kool and , yes, I did notice and read the article on the front page of the NYTimes.

  16. Mikey Renn says

    When I lived in Olney, Texas, a little dusty town of about 2000 pop., one could not keep pink Flamingos in the yard- they would be stolen promptly!

  17. PennyinColorado says

    It’s been interesting reading about the late Don Featherstone and his flamingos.
    Does anyone remember a news item a few years back saying that the flamingos were no longer being made in the US?
    Well, last weekend I was at my local Ace Hardware store, and to my surprise, I saw a couple of boxes of pairs of genuine Featherstone flamingos, and they were actually made in the US, new ones not old ones though. I was quite excited, having just mourned Mr. Featherstone’s death, and of course had to buy a box.
    They are now gracing the front yard, artfully placed amongst the “shrubberies” as Monty Python might say.
    May they stay unstolen.

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