Designed by Viktor Schreckengost, Murray’s chief designer, the streamlined 1939 Murray Mercury bicycle was launched to much acclaim at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
It became the 1939 New York Worlds Fair’s ‘official bicycle’ and several were on display in the MAN Building at the Fair.
Viktor Schreckengost was one of America’s most prolific designers. He died in 2007, aged 101. My American friend Jerry, a keen bicycle collector, visited Viktor in the early 1990s. Viktor must have been in his eighties then, and he remembers being impressed by the fact that Viktor’s wife was half Viktor’s age!
The previous model of Mercury had been designed by the equally renowned designer Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky. (You can compare his 1937 Mercury with the 1939 Schreckengost Mercury further down the page). It featured a headlight pod above the handlebars that was a radical design statement. When Viktor took over styling duties in 1938 for the new model, there was obviously some pressure on him to go one better …and to create a new radical headlight feature.
Viktor explained: ‘…Originally we had planned to put tiny headlights atop the outside of the tank, but that didn’t work out to be as pleasing as we wanted. Then I hit upon the idea of incorporating them into the tank. Everyone loved it and that is how we displayed it at the World’s Fair.’
Historian Leon Dixon adds: ‘Things were in such a rush to get ready for the World’s Fair exhibit that the elaborate diecast metal art-deco headpiece was not even plated as were later production models. Nor did it include the word Mercury as did later production models. Instead, it was simply polished. Ultimately, this design (with minor modifications) continued through 1941 and was stopped when WW2 began.’
The Mercury World’s Fair Pacemaker bicycle is rare and sought-after these days, but the velocipede tricycle featured here, which mirrors the design of the bicycle, is even harder to find.
1939 Mercury Velocipede Tricycle
World’s Fair Model
Front wheel 16″
Rear wheels 9″
with solid tyres
1937 & 1941 STEELCRAFT CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
Compare the 1937 Sakhnoffsky, above, with the Schreckengost (1941) Mercury below. Steelcraft advertised three models in their 1941 catalogue: the Flash, finished in blue enamel with red trim and white striping ($6.96); the Streak ($5.24) in green and white enamel; and the more luxurious Streamliner painted black with orange and white trim.
1939 MURRAY MERCURY PACEMAKER BICYCLE
WORLD’S FAIR MODEL