Don Featherstone graduated from Worcester Art Museum’s art school in 1957 and began working for Union Products, Inc. in Leominster, Massachusetts designing 3D plastic animals. Over his 43-year career, Featherstone created over 750 different plastic lawn ornaments—but none were as popular as the pink flamingo.
The pink flamingo was first released in 1957, and immediately caught on due to the popularity of the color pink and the flamingo’s promise of an endless summer. As live flamingos were not readily available in New England, Featherstone reportedly relied on National Geographic photos to create the design for his polystyrene flamingos. The lawn decorations became so popular that in 1987, Featherstone Originals included a mold of Don’s signature to set it apart from generic versions.
Despite some homeowner’s associations banning the flamingo, its popularity has endured. In 2009 the Madison, Wisconsin city council named the plastic pink flamingo the city’s official bird. The 1972 John Waters film Pink Flamingos obviously took its name from Featherstone’s kitschy creation, and the 2011 Disney animated film Gnomeo & Juliet featured a pink flamingo character “Featherstone” in Don’s honor.
In 1996 Featherstone received an Ig Nobel Prize for Art from Improbable Research for his “ornamentally evolutionary invention, the plastic pink flamingo.” Featherstone and his wife Nancy attended the induction ceremony at Harvard wearing matching outfits. According to the Guardian, the Featherstones wore matching outfits every day for 35 years.
Don Featherstone died in 2015 at the age of 79. He was buried in South Berlin Cemetery in a family plot. His gravestone includes seven flamingoes etched into the stone as well as the epitaph “Original creator of the pink plastic flamingo.”
Know Before You Go
Donald Featherstone's grave is in the very back section of South Berlin Cemetery. It's an active cemetery, so please be respectful of others.