A discussion on this would certainly take into consideration gnomes, which I believe were introduced in Germany in the mid 1850’s or “Jocko” the African-American boy holding a lantern, believed by legend to hark back to the Revolutionary War – both of which I anticipate discussing in a later post.  Instead, let me discuss the pink flamingo which is my personal favorite lawn ornament and most produced and sold within America. It is a cliché, which has now evolved into pure kitsch. John Waters even titled a film evoking what he considered the poor taste of this garden ornament. 

Robert Thompson, professor of popular culture at Syracuse University, told the Los Angeles Times "as iconic emblems of kitsch, there are two pillars of cheesy campiness in the American pantheon. One is the velvet Elvis. The other is the pink flamingo."  It is estimated that 20 million of these were produced by the Union Carbide company, designed by a young designer, Don Featherstone in 1957.  Wal-Mart has been its biggest customer, selling 250,000 of the birds each year.

According to Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub, Home & Garden Editor for the Florida Sun-Sentinal, “Featherstone retired as president of Union Products about six years ago, but he still promotes his creation and will continue to do so post-mortem.  On Oct. 5, he spoke on what would have been the upcoming 50th anniversary of Featherstone's plastic pink flamingo at the Ig Nobel prizes at Harvard University. The Ig Nobels, a parody of the Nobel prizes, are given for achievements that "first make people laugh and then make them think," according to Improbable Research, creator of the awards. Featherstone was honored in 1996 for his creation, which he originally sculptured from clay using a National Geographic photograph.”

Landscape designer Martha Schwartz featured the pink flamingo in her celebrated 51 garden Ornaments installation.  In her own words, “these ornaments therefore reflect who we are and how we would like to be seen. They come to characterize a larger collective landscape as we see them often in people's yards. They represent areas of cultural similarity as well as difference.”

I checked,... and they can still be purchased on Amazon or Ebay!