Later that day we made it to Memphis,
Home of the King!
We stopped at the visitor’s center as we entered Memphis to collect a Tennessee map for Ozzie (his requested souvenir of our travels) and to stretch our legs. There we ran into the big man himself! Memphis is probably best know for Graceland, home of Elvis Presley.
We didn’t have the time to tour Graceland (we were only driving through) but did swing by the front gates to catch a glimpse.
The real reason we were in Memphis was to visit the other royalty that make Memphis home:
The ducks at the Peabody Hotel!
Haven’t heard of these famous feathered guests?
Let me fill you in:
The Legend of the 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 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. Thus began a Peabody tradition which was to become internationally famous.
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.
Nearly 90 years after the inaugural march, ducks still visit the lobby fountain at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day.
Living a life of red carpets, velvet ropes, rooftop pools and sweeping views of the Mississippi, these five North American mallards know how to work a room.
One of the top attractions in Memphis, Tennessee, every day at 11am these feathered celebrities leave their penthouse Duck Palace and prepare for the onslaught of tourist flashbulbs.
After descending to the ground floor in a glass elevator, they waddle the red carpet to take their place in the hotel lobby fountain.
The ducks spend the day greeting their fans,
Then at 5pm they clock off, and as the Duck Master clears their path with velvet ropes they wipe their feet on the red carpet, head back to the elevator and retire to the rooftop.
There they spend the night in the 288 square foot Duck Palace. Built in 2008 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Peabody Ducks, the Duck Palace features a 24 foot glass viewing panel, sun deck, ceiling fans, overhead lighting and a replica of the Peabody Hotel for the ducks to sleep in.
The $200,000 Duck Palace is open to the public from 8am to 10pm daily and the roof top is a great place to get gorgeous views of Memphis while checking out the ducks’ luxurious digs.
Here are some fun facts about the Peabody ducks:
The Peabody Ducks are five North American mallards – one drake (male) with a 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 offer 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.
When off-duty, the ducks live in their Royal Duck Palace on the hotel’s rooftop. The $200,000 structure is made of marble and glass and features 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.
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.
The kids got a kick out of this hotel’s unique guests. The Peabody Hotel is a must see stop if you’re ever driving through Memphis!