Make Way For Ducklings Statue

Boston, Massachusetts (MA)

Make Way For Ducklings Statue: honouring the official children’s book of Massachusetts.

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Discover the Make Way for Ducklings Statue in Boston

Inside Boston's Public Garden, a family of nine bronze ducks known as the Make Way for Ducklings Statue, has been a permanent fixture for over 30 years. These sculptures were inspired by the beloved children's book of the same name. Installed in 1987, the statues quickly became a popular attraction in the Boston Public Garden.

After 10 years of their presence in the garden, the statue was surveyed by the Smithsonian Institution's "Save Outdoor Sculpture!" program, showing how it had gained tremendous popularity as a piece of public art. Today, visitors of the garden should make tracking down these adorable ducklings and their mother their principal mission!

Make Way For Ducklings Statue 5
- Kimberly Vardeman

The Story Behind the Make Way for Ducklings Statue

Published in 1941, Robert McCloskey's "Make Way for Ducklings" tells the heartwarming tale of Mr. and Mrs. Mallard, a pair of ducks who decide to raise their family in Boston. The story follows their adventures as they search for the perfect spot to raise their soon-to-be-born ducklings. Eventually, they find solace on a small island in the Boston Public Garden's lagoon, where Mrs. Mallard teaches her ducklings to navigate the city safely. McCloskey was inspired by his daily observations of ducks in the Public Garden during his commute to the Vesper George School of Art.

The book's depiction of the ducklings' adventures through Boston's busy streets and their eventual safe return to the garden resonated with readers, earning it the prestigious Caldecott Medal for its detailed illustrations and heartwarming narrative. The story has remained a staple in children's literature, celebrated for its themes of family, safety, and adaptation to changing city life.

Make Way For Ducklings Statue 3
- Kimberly Vardeman

The Creation of the Make Way For Ducklings Statue

Who created the Statue?

In 1987, to commemorate the story's enduring popularity, the city of Boston commissioned Nancy Schön to create a bronze sculpture based on McCloskey's characters. Unveiled on 4th October the same year, the sculpture has since received high praise for capturing the essence of the story making it a beloved fixture in the Public Garden.

The Design

Nancy Schön’s sculpture features the mother duck, Mrs. Mallard, followed by her eight ducklings—Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack—marching in a row. The tallest of these bronze statues stands at 38 inches tall. The entire group stretches across 35 ft of old Boston cobblestone, perfectly capturing the scene from the book where the ducks make their way through the city to the safety of the Public Garden.

Make Way For Ducklings Statue
- Jim Reynolds

Popularity of Make Way for Ducklings Statue

Beloved by Children

“I never thought it would be what it is. It’s just amazing and wonderful, and I hope that I’ve given a lot of pleasure to a lot of the children, and I think I have.”

Nancy Schön, reflecting on the impact of her work.

The ducklings have become a beloved part of Boston’s landscape. Despite their relatively small size in a city known for its grand monuments and historic buildings, the ducklings, each with their own unique personality, hold a special place in the hearts of Bostonians. What’s more, their height makes them the perfect size for children to sit on and pose for photos. Ever wondered where their polished appearance came from?

Make Way For Ducklings Statue 4
- Kimberly Vardeman

Community Appreciation

One of the most endearing aspects of the "Make Way For Ducklings" statue is how it is embraced by the local community. Throughout the year, the statues are often dressed to impress in seasonal costumes and themed outfits, such as tiny scarves and hats in winter, or sporting jerseys when Boston's teams are doing well. At one point they were dubbed the “Gronklings” in honour of the Patriots' tight end.

On Mother’s Day each spring the "Make Way for Ducklings" statue becomes the centre of the annual Duckling Day Parade. Children dress as ducklings and other characters from the book, parading through the streets of Boston. The parade concludes at the statue, where participants gather to celebrate the beloved story. This tradition has become a highlight for many families.

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- Massachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism

Cultural Appreciation

"A vehicle for people to express themselves."

Nancy Schön, reflecting on the Statue’s ability to inspire change.

The tale has also become treasured for its broader cultural impact. Boston Magazine's Madeline Bilis suggests that Mrs. Mallard, as an independent and capable female character, can be seen as one of the first feminist icons in children's literature. This sentiment was highlighted during the 2016 Boston Women’s March for America, when each duckling was fitted with a pink, cat-eared “pussyhat,” a symbol of the protest. Alongside this they have supported other social causes such as Pride, Black Lives Matter, and solidarity with Ukraine.

Celebrating the Statue and Book

In 2016 and 2017, the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston dedicated an exhibit to the ducklings and the book that inspired them. This exhibit highlighted the statues' cultural impact and celebrated the 75th anniversary of McCloskey’s book.

Make Way For Ducklings Statue 2
- Ken Lund

A Second Make Way for Ducklings Statue

The impact of the "Make Way for Ducklings" statue extends beyond literature and art, and even Boston! Playing its part in Cold War diplomacy, a replica of the statue was gifted to Russian First Lady Raisa Gorbachev by First Lady Barbara Bush. This gift, given “in love and friendship to the children of the Soviet Union, on behalf of the children of the United States”, coincided with the signing of the START Treaty. This treaty aimed to reduce nuclear arms between the USA and the USSR.

The installation of the Moscow statue in Novodevichy Park, took place on 30th July 1991. It was orchestrated by the Massachusetts-based landscape and construction company Capizzi & Co. Inc. The US Air Force transported the statues, cobblestones, and necessary equipment via a C-5 aircraft.

Tragically, in 1991, shortly after its installation, one of the ducklings was stolen. This was followed by a more severe theft in February 2000, when three more ducklings were cut off at the legs and stolen by thieves hoping to sell them as scrap metal. Despite this setback, in September 2000, the stolen ducks were replaced in a rededication ceremony, attended by former President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev.

Today, the replica remains on display in Moscow, accompanied by a plaque in both English and Russian, and continues to represent friendship between America and Russia.

Visiting the Make Way For Ducklings Statue

Over the years, the story's popularity in Boston is evident, with the Boston Public Library housing over 150 copies and the book being designated the official children's book of Massachusetts. It's no surprise then that visiting the whimsical Make Way For Ducklings statue, which honours the story, is one of the top activities for families in Boston.

What to Do After Visiting the Statue

After spending time with Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings, be sure to explore more of the Boston Public Garden. One of the highlights is a ride on Boston's famed Swan Boats. These pedal-powered boats offer a serene 12-15 minute tour around the garden's lagoon. Tickets can be purchased at the Swan Boat dock prior to your departure.

Interested in finding more places like this? Try one of our Boston Scavenger Hunts- untangle cryptic clues as a team, as you are taken on a journey to the most unique, unusual and bizarre corners of Boston and beyond!

Make Way For Ducklings Statue 1
- Massachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism


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