Peabody Hotel is not just another luxury hotel in downtown Memphis in Tennessee, USA. This one has a peculiar attraction – ducks. Every day at 11 in the morning, a parade of five mallard ducks makes its way from their penthouse home on the roof of the hotel down to the lobby via the elevator. Red carpet is rolled out all the way from the elevator door to the hotel fountain made of a solid block of Italian travertine marble. The ducks frolic in the waters the entire day. At exactly 5 in the evening, the ducks are ceremoniously led back to their penthouse.
The unique tradition started in 1932, when the general manager of the time, Frank Schutt, had just returned from a weekend hunting trip in Arkansas. He and his friends thought it would be amusing to leave three of their live English Call Duck decoys in the hotel fountain. The ducks became immediately popular with hotel guests, and since then, five Mallard ducks (one male and four females) have played in the fountain every day.
In 1940, a Bellman by the name of Edward Pembroke volunteered to care for the ducks. Pembroke was a circus animal trainer and he taught the ducks to march into the hotel lobby, which started the famous Peabody Duck March. He served as the "Duckmaster" until his retirement in 1991.
The ducks, themselves, have been rotated over the years. In fact, each team of five ducks only work for three months before they are replaced by another set. The ducks are raised by a local farmer and are returned to the farm when they retire.
The custom of keeping ducks in the lobby fountain may date back even further than the 1930s. Researchers found a pre-1915 postcard that highlights the ducks playing in the fountain, and one source claims the custom goes back to the hotel's opening in 1869.
However, the Peabody itself claims the duck tradition to have started in 1933. On December 3, 2008 they unveiled a new "Duck Palace" located on the rooftop, for the 75th anniversary of the duck tradition. The 24 by 12 foot enclosure features granite flooring, ceiling fans, a scale replica of the hotel, a fountain decorated with a pair of bronze ducks, and a large viewing window for guests to see them in their new home. The Duck Palace cost approximately $200,000 to construct.