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Peabody Ducks

Legend of The Peabody Ducks

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.
 
Duck March
Duck Palace
Royal Duck Palace
Duck Fountain
The Peabody Ducks have been a must-see Memphis attraction for Lisa Marie Presley, Michael Jordan, Nicholas Cage, Ethan Hawke, Priscilla Presley, Don King, President Jimmy Carter, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, Justin Timberlake, Wentworth Miller, Robin Thicke, and Jeff Bridges. In addition, Patrick Swayze, Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King, Florence Henderson, Emeril Lagasse, Jeff Dunham, Peter Frampton, Joan Collins, George Hamilton, Molly Ringwald, Chris Matthews, Andrew McCarthy, Chris Isaak, Gene Simmons, Paula Deen, Larry King, Kevin Bacon, Chip Esten, Miranda Cosgrove, and Kid President have been Honorary Duckmasters.
 
The Peabody Ducks are five North American mallards - one drake (male) with white collar and green head, and four hens (females) with less colorful plumage.
 
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.
 
The Peabody Ducks do not have individual names. However, the very first team of ducks were Peabody, Gayoso, and Chisca - named for the three hotels owned by the Memphis Hotel Company in 1933.
 
The Peabody's lobby fountain is cut from one enormous piece of travertine marble made and shipped from Italy for the hotel's 1925 opening. The colorful flowers adorning the top of the fountain are changed out every other day in the middle of the night.
 
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 ducks 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.

 
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