Why We Should Thank The Circus for One Hotel’s Famous Tradition

Posted on Posted in Unique Stories of Hotel Marketing

Imagine this… you’re in the lobby of a beautiful luxury hotel waiting to check in. You notice a gathering of people near the elevator and then see a red carpet leading to a beautiful fountain. What’s going on? Is there a celebrity staying on-property? A Kardashian perhaps?

As the elevator doors open, you see a man wearing a red sport coat, black slacks and holding a cane. In front of him are five mallard ducks.

No, this isn’t a Disney movie, or some weird travel-induced feverish dream. What your experiencing is the annual Peabody Duck March– a time-honored tradition at the Peabody Memphis Hotel since 1940!


I’m Sorry, “Duck March?”

Yep, every day at 11am, five North American Mallards, with the help of the Peabody Duckmaster, make their way from the Royal Duck Palace on the hotel’s rooftop to the lobby fountain (across a red carpet of course) where they spend the day. At 5pm, the process is reversed and the feathered friends march back on the elevator and return to the roof of the hotel.


A Tradition with an Unlikely Origin

After 75+ years, the Peabody Memphis Ducks have gained international notoriety and the hotel has fully embraced them in their brand, incorporating a duck into their logo and website. So how does a tradition like this start?

Well, the original idea can be traced back to the Peabody’s General Manager in the 1930s, Frank Schmutt. Inspired by a weekend duck-hunting trip (ironic right?) Schmutt and a friend thought placing live ducks in the lobby’s fountain would be funny.

However, the tradition probably wouldn’t still be continuing today without a little help from the circus.


Tell Me More

In 1940, Edward Pembroke, a hotel bellman, came up with the idea of adding some spectacle to the ducks’ fountain arrival each day by parading them through the lobby.

As a former animal circus trainer, Pembroke had the perfect skill set to train the ducks. And he actually went on to hold the position of official Duckmaster for over 50 years, finally retiring from his role in 1991. Don’t worry though, new Duckmasters have since risen to take Pembroke’s place to keep the tradition alive.


Duck Fun Facts

From the Peabody Hotel’s website , here are some fun facts about the Peabody Ducks:

  • The ducks are wild and come from a local farm.
  • The ducks only live at the hotel for three months, after which they return to their lives in the wild.
  • The ducks have been featured as answers on the game show Jeopardy.
  • The ducks are always five North American Mallards, one male and four females.
  • Duck is not served as a meal anywhere at the hotel, despite having a French restaurant on-property.
  • When off-duty, the ducks live in a “Royal Duck Palace” on the hotel’s rooftop, a $200,000-dollar marble and glass structure.

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