The first blow mold to start the lawn ornament craze was the Pink Flamingo, created in 1957 by Don Featherstone whom went to work for Union Products right out of art school. Yes others were made prior in smaller shapes and more for indoor decoration. Mr Featherson was interviewed in 1997 about the fame of the pink flamingo's which were forty years old at that time. Many companies made their versions thru the years but his design are the most sought after.
In the interview he shared a wealth of info about Union Products, which he eventually became owner of. Following are some excerpts:
I came to work for Union Products right out of art school. The flamingo was one of my first projects. I sculpted it out of clay. But converting a sculpture to plastic forces you to be an engineer to some extent, to come to grips with the strengths and limitations of plastic. My pink flamingo would look a lot different if I'd made it out of bronze.
I went to work for Union Products right out of the school of the Worcester Art Museum in 1957 and I've been there ever since. Last year (1996) I bought the firm from the former owners, who retired at ages 88 and 90.
We manufacture a line of about 600-800 products, and I sculpted every one of them.
Ducks, flamingos, penguins, gnomes, just about every- thing you could think of. We employ between 140 and 220 people, depending on the season. My first project was actually a duck. You know, we probably sell more ducks than we do flamingos. They're made out of the same plastic as the containers that they ship acid and glue in. My original model had wooden dowels for legs, but they were too expensive to make and plastic wasn't strong enough, so we went with the metal rods. We once put out a model called the Flamingo Deluxe. They looked very natural, with nice wooden yellow legs, but they wouldn't sell. It's almost like flamingo people think that the real birds have metal legs in their natural state.
I first realized I was considered an icon of '50s pop art when the flamingo was coming up on its 30th anniversary. At the time, I wasn't even aware that the 30-year point was coming up, and suddenly I was being invited to all kinds of parties in honor of my pink flamingo. I didn't go to many of them, but I realized something special was happening. I started paying attention and hearing more stories.
An example or a story is when an automobile dealer from Oklahoma who bought 700 flamingos from me and paid to have them express-mailed to him. He had been using them to get publicity. He and his employees would sneak out in the night and put them up as a flock in some conspicuous place, and it would make the news. Each morning the flamingos would mysteriously appear in a new location - no explanation, no signs or anything. It got to where they had morning traffic reporters in their helicopters reporting on the latest location of the flock.
The car dealer's plan was that, on the last day of his stunt, the flock would show up at his dealership. What he didn't count on was that people would stop on the highways and steal them. And that's why he suddenly had an urgent need to buy 700 of them from me. By the way, he did win a marketing award from General Motors for his efforts.
Throughout history, people have loved statuary. There's plenty of evidence, in old paintings, in carvings, even in ancient hieroglyphics, that people have always loved to decorate their surroundings. In early America, for the longest time, there was no lawn ornamentation. Around the turn of the century, the Europeans started bringing over lawn ornaments in the form of bronze statuary. They were beautiful, and very popular, but few people could afford such things. Keep in mind that, before plastics, only rich people could afford to have poor taste.
You know, my own neighbors used to hate my flamingos; complained about them all the time. Then they moved to Florida, and the first thing they say when they write us a letter is how much they miss the flamingos and would I please send them some.
I did something that people enjoyed, something that amused people. That's so much more satisfying than, say, designing something destructive like the atom bomb. And I'll tell you something about people who put out flamingos: They're friendlier than most people. Remember, they don't do it for themselves - they're doing it to entertain you.
|Union Products 1998 |
GENERAL HISTORY of BLOW MOLDS
Blow-mold lawn ornaments have been available in the United States from the 1940s to the present, but the popularity of the pink flamingo in the 1950s brought these ornaments to fame. Union Products was the most successful American blow-mold company, staying in business until 2006. Some companies, like Empire Plastic Corporation, made blow-mold ornaments along with popular toys. Many American companies created blow-mold ornaments from the 1950s through the early 1990s. Blow-mold yard decorations are still available, but few blow-mold companies are still operating in the U.S. at this time. Some have been made in the 2000s in China.
Blow-mold lawn ornaments aren’t just for Christmas. Manufacturers made popular cartoon characters and children’s book characters, along with penguins, nativity scenes, candles and angels. Snoopy was a popular blow-mold ornament, and many Disney characters were made by Santa’s Best. Artistic Latex Form Company produced blow-mold angels and carolers, as well as some animal figurines. Blow-mold ornaments prior to 1956 were two-dimensional, but after that time, Union Products and similar companies made three-dimensional blow-mold lawn ornaments with a small light bulb for added visibility and charm.
In today's collectibles field the most sought after blow molds were made by Empire Plastic Corporation and Union Products. However some love any and all they can find. Many additional companies made blow molds and here is a list I have been able to gather: the dates are known time frame for each companies production of blow molds only and will change as more are discovered.
|medium height 1973 Carolina Enterprises, small 1968 Empire|
Artistic Latex Form 1940's-1960's Harrill Co
A. J. Renzi Plastics 1960's-early 80's Heller Industries
Art Line Late 1960's-1990's Holiday Innovations 1980's-1990's
Beco Products 1950's-1960's Irwin Plastics 1960's
Bel Air 1960's Judith Novelty Sales 1960'-1970's
Blinky Products 1960's-1980's L A Goodman Mfg Co
Borse Plastics Products 1960's Lidco 1960's
Carolina Enterprises 1970's Marx 1960's
Dapol Industries 1970's Miller Electric Co 1950's
Drainage Industries 2000's(current) Mold Craft late 1950's-1960
Empire Plastic Corp 1960's-1990's Niagra Plastics Co
Falcon Plastics Noma Lites International 1950's
Fantazia Marketing Corp 1990's Nu Dell Manufacturing
Farley Technologies Pillsbury Dough Co
Faster Forms 2000's Poloron Products 1960's-1970's
General Foam Plastics 1980's-2000's Santa's Best 1990's-2000's
General Plastics Sun Hill Industries 1980's-1990's
Grand Venture 1990's TPI Plastics 1980's-1990's
Gregg Products Union Products 1940's-2006
Hamilton Skotch Co
|Poloron Products 1960's|
|An example of 1950's indoor only blow mold for decoration. These are a much harder plastic than your typical lawn decoration.|
Below are photos of toy blow molds and childrens rooms decorations
Ahh those cartoon favorites below
And who doesn't love Minnie & Mickey