Glory of Commerce

  • Sculptor: Jules-Felix Coutan
  • Dedicated: 1914
  • Medium and size: Limestone, overall 50 x 60 feet; Mercury is 28 feet
  • Location: Grand Central Terminal, roof of south facade, 42nd Street and Park Avenue
  • Subway: 4, 5, 6 to Grand Central - 42nd Street

Glory of Commerce

What Big Feet You Have!

Coutan made a quarter-size clay model in France for this sculptural group, which was carved by William Bradley & Son of Long Island City. Using pneumatic chisels, they completed the work in 2 weeks. It’s an enormous piece: the clock is 13 feet in diameter, and Mercury is 28 feet high. This photo of a child in the Bradley studio gives a sense of scale.

Hermes girl

Grand Central’s Architect Explains The Sculpture

Whitney Warren, one of the architects of Grand Central Terminal, explained the motive of its facade as

an attempt to offer a tribute to the glory of commerce ... as typified by Mercury, supported by moral and mental energy - Hercules and Minerva. All to attest that this great enterprise has grown and exists, not merely from the wealth expended, nor by the revenue derived, but by the brain and brawn constantly concentrated upon its development for nearly a century. --Whitney Warren in the New York Times, 2/2/1913

Railroads in New York and the Construction of Grand Central Terminal

On the expansion of railroads in the United States, see CooperHolley, Vanderbilt, Glory of Commerce, and Rea.

The fascinating story of Grand Central Terminal and its predecessors is told in Kurt C. Schlichting’s Grand Central Terminal: Railroads, Engineering, and Architecture in New York City. Here’s Grand Central Terminal from the south, as it appeared before the construction of the Pan Am Building; the “air rights” buildings line Park Avenue in the background.

GCT air rights 
buildings

“Travel,” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Read this aloud: you can feel the rhythm of the train.

The railroad track is miles away, 
And the day is loud with voices speaking, 
Yet there isn't a train goes by all day 
But I hear its whistle shrieking.

All night there isn't a train goes by, 
Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming, 
But I see its cinders red on the sky, 
And hear its engine steaming.

My heart is warm with friends I make, 
And better friends I'll not be knowing; 
Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take, 
No matter where it's going. 

Cross Reference

Copyright (c) 2013 Dianne L. Durante