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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 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.

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.

  1. 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.

  2. jeannie 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!…

  3. JKaye says:

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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Amy L says:

    I have a set just like this – now I know who made them! And some approximate dating. =) Thanks Pam & Jeannie!

  8. 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…

  9. 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.

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