Every now and then, I like to get out of our Downtown office and stroll around to clear my head. I’ve always been vaguely aware of Gertie the Duck and her statue, but I never really stopped to look.
Today, I did, and I wandered around both banks of the Milwaukee River to see all six of the duck sculptures that line it. They’re pretty cute.
Here’s the story on Gertie the Duck and her ducklings, from VisitMilwaukee.org:
"By early 1945 America was growing weary under the strain of the devastation and death caused by World War II. In the spring of that year a bridge operator on the Wisconsin Avenue Bridge discovered that a duck had nested on the bridge pilings and was caring for eggs. "Gertie the Duck" became a welcome antidote to the struggles of war and a reminder of the fragility of life.
Inspired by a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal about the incubation and subsequent hatching of the eggs, national newspapers soon became captivated by the story. The nation began to follow the story of Gertie and her six ducklings: Black Bill, Dee Dee, Rosie, Freddie, Millie and Pee Wee. A Gertie Patrol was formed by the Boy Scouts to protect the nest and a Wisconsin Humane Society officer was stationed to watch as the eggs eventually hatched. Their fame earned them a feature in Life Magazine that summer, and even a London newspaper featured their story on its front page. It is estimated that more than two million people came to the city to see the ducklings that spring and summer of 1945. The ducks were eventually cared for in a climate-controlled window display in the adjacent Gimbel's department store, before being released in a park on Lake Michigan.
Gertie's fame turned into legend when a children's book entitled "Gertie the Duck" was written by Nick Georgiady and Louis Romano and published in 1959.
The story of the famous mallard from Milwaukee gave the city and the entire country a reason for hope during a tumultuous time in our history."
So, in order of cuteness, I present you six rad Riverwalk ducks … although they’re all pretty cute:
4. Pee Wee
5. Black Bill
Andy is the founder and co-owner of OnMilwaukee.com. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.