One of the most popular attractions in Memphis, the Peabody Ducks march to and from the Grand Lobby of the Peabody Hotel daily at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. in a time-honored tradition dating back to 1933.

So, how did the tradition of the ducks in The Peabody fountain begin? Back in the 1930s Frank Schutt, General Manager of The Peabody, and a friend, Chip Barwick, returned from a weekend hunting trip to Arkansas. The men had a little too much Jack Daniel's Tennessee sippin' whiskey, and thought it would be funny to place some of their live duck decoys (it was legal then for hunters to use live decoys) in the beautiful Peabody fountain. 

Three small English call ducks were selected as "guinea pigs," and the reaction was nothing short of enthusiastic. Soon, five North American Mallard ducks would replace the original ducks. 

In 1940, Bellman Edward Pembroke, a former circus animal trainer, offered to help with delivering the ducks to the fountain each day and taught them the now-famous Peabody Duck March. Mr. Pembroke became the Peabody Duckmaster, serving in that capacity for 50 years until his retirement in 1991.

The original ducks have long since gone, but after nearly 80 years, the marble fountain in the hotel lobby is still graced with ducks. The Peabody ducks march at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily. 

Fun Facts

  • Ducks were not the first residents of The Peabody's lobby fountain. Rumor has it that turtles and baby alligators each briefly graced the fountain in the 1920s.
     
  • The Peabody Ducks do not have individual names. However, the very first team of ducks was named Peabody, Gayoso, and Chisca - named for the three hotels owned by the Memphis Hotel Company in 1933.
     
  • When off-duty from the Lobby, the ducks live in their Royal Duck Palace on the hotel's rooftop. The $200,000 structure is made of marble and glass and includes its very own fountain with a bronze duck spitting water. It also includes a small house - a replica of the hotel - where the ducks can nest, with a soft, grassy "front yard."
     
  • The Peabody Marching Ducks have appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Sesame Street when Bert and Ernie celebrated Rubber Ducky Day, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and in People magazine and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. 
     
  • The Peabody Ducks have been both a question on the TV game show Jeopardy and in the board game Trivial Pursuit.
     
  • Current Duckmaster Anthony Petrina, a Memphis native, is only the 5th Duckmaster in the hotel's history. Original Duckmaster Edward Pembroke held the position for 50 years.
     
  • Raised by a local farmer and a friend of the hotel, each team of Peabody Ducks lives at the hotel for only three months before retiring from their duty and returning to the farm, where they are free to live as wild ducks. With a return to the great outdoors in mind, the hotel recognizes its resident waterfowl as wild animals and does not domesticate them or treat them like pets.
     
  • Duck is not served anywhere at The Peabody, and has not been seen on the hotel's menus since its 1981 reopening, quite possibly making Chez Philippe the only French restaurant in the world that does not serve duck.

 

By and photo credit:.peabodymemphis.com/ducks-en