Did 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.
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 there. 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.
Jeannie’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.
Above: 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.
Here 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.