Mercurius, the ancient Roman god of commerce, serves as swift messenger to the other gods, and as mediator between entities of the upper and lower worlds. Through his many adventures, Mercury has also acquired recognition as the patron god of travelers.
In 1959, Ford Motor Company, Mercury Division, assigned internationally known sculptor Marshall Fredericks (1908-1998) to produce a life-size bust of Mercurius. It was the first new sculpture of this mythological figure in more than a century. The bust was cast in honed nickel alloy, and mounted on a pedestal of black Belgian marble. Commissioned for the permanent fine art collection of Ford Motor Company, the polished nickel sculpture is located at Benson Ford Research Center on the campus of The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
The Chief Executive Officer of Ford Motor Company from 1919-1943 was Edsel Ford, son of founder Henry Ford, and father of Henry Ford II, President, CEO, and Chairman of Ford from 1945-1980. More than any other automobile company president, Edsel Ford is noted as an aesthete with an interest and intellectual capacity for innovative body design and performance tuning. In 1934 he started an in-house design studio and promoted E.T. “Bob” Gregorie as Ford’s first Chief of Design. Gregorie collaborated directly with Ford, and translated their leading styling strategy to a design team numbering about 20 highly-skilled craftsmen. Assistants to Gregorie included Dick Beneicke, head clay modeler along with Martin Regitko, body surface development; Bruno Kolt, sheet metal and grille designer; Willys P. Wagner, exterior hardware, bumpers, and lights designer; Walter Kruke, interior trim; and John J. Walker, specialist in instrument panels.
It was Edsel Ford, in conflict with his father’s brand strategy, who masterminded the new marque, Mercury. The 1939 Mercury Eight was the first commercial collaboration between Edsel Ford and Bob Gregorie; and it served as Mercury’s singular offering, in various body types, until 1951. Progressive updates to body components and running gear for the second model year, 1940, introduced features such as sealed-beam headlights, tilt-open wing windows, and gearshift lever operation mounted on the steering column. The last commercial collaboration between Ford and Gregorie was the completely new, independent of Ford automobile styling, 1949 Mercury Eight.
The 1939 Mercury Eight, the first Mercury, was registered by over sixty-thousand new car owners. Those first year sales reflected the enthusiastic reception the brand had received when displayed at national auto shows, and at the Ford Motor Company Exposition for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. The Fair’s theme, Building the World of Tomorrow, proved to be an inspiration for all who received the message. By 1950, the one-millionth Mercury had been built. All of them, swift V8s.