Horace Rackham Memorial Fountain

The pleasing fountain situated at the heart of the central mall in Detroit Zoological Park is one of the several memorial fountains in the city. This one, popularly referred to as Rackham Memorial Fountain, was dedicated to Horace H. Rackham.

Horace H. Rackham, born in June 27, 1858, was a noted philanthropist and was one of the original stockholders in Ford Motor Company. He, together with his partner in law firm John W. Anderson, was hired by Henry Ford in 1903 to draw up papers for the Motor company.  During the transactions, Ford convinced them to buy shares of stock resulting for Rackham to buy 50 shares of Ford stock while his partner bought another 50. Alexander Malcomson, James J. Couzens who would later be Mayor of the city, John Francis Dodge and Horace Dodge were among those who were awarded with shares of stock. Among these stockholders, Rackham was elected as chairman. With the success of Ford Motor Company, Rackham quit his law practice in 1913. Then in 1919, Edsel Ford, son of Henry Ford, bought Rackham’s stock for $12.5 million. With his acquired wealth, he spent the rest of his life with wife Mary Horton as a philanthropist donating money for children’s charities, the University of Michigan and other causes. He bigheartedly supported the Graduate School at the University of Michigan. He also contributed funds needed for establishing one of the university’s most beautiful structures, the Rackham Educational Memorial building.

Rackham was also the first president of Detroit Zoological Commission. The zoo’s establishment and continuous support was made possible due to his efforts. To make the city of Detroit approve the financial funding of the zoo, Rackham bought acres of land near the Detroit Zoological Society and promised to give the land to the city of Detroit in exchange of financial support. With the help of Mayor James Couzens, whom he got acquainted with at Ford Motors Company, he had the city officials agree on taking over and supporting the emerging zoo.

His wife, Mary Horton knew of his husband’s love and interest for the zoo. So after Rackham died in 1933 at age 75, she donated the memorial fountain to the zoo. It was to honor his husband and all his contribution to the zoo’s establishment, apart from his other charitable activities.

Now, Rackham Memorial Fountain stands at 8450 West Ten Mile at Woodward in Royal Oak. Designed by sculptors Corrado Joseph Parducci and Frederick Schnaple, the fountain features 10-feet tall bronze bears and figures of sea lion, turtles and frogs. For a more amusing water show, the fountain is located in a large reflecting pool which is about the size of 3 Olympic pools, where two more appealing seal fountain are erected. European artist Schnaple was responsible for the design of the memorial fountain while Parducci worked on the sculpture. It was Parducci’s idea to add the seal fountains. Seals were chosen to be the sculpted figures because the artist thought it jives well with the over-all shape and grace of the entire water piece.

Horace Rackham Memorial Fountain was completed in 1939.