What is Mercury gazing at? Look closely and you'll see he's looking at more than just his hand. There's a peregrine falcon on his fist.
The bird is Beauty, a peregrine born in Pittsburgh, and the statue is Mercury which has graced Rochester, New York's skyline since 1881, with a two-decade gap as you shall see.
The statue was crafted by J. Guernsey Mitchell, the brother-in-law of William S. Kimball who owned the Kimball Tobacco factory. When completed Mercury was placed on the factory's smokestack. In 1905 the building became a shirt factory, later the City Hall Annex and a branch of the public library. In 1951 when the building was torn down, the statue was saved and later erected atop the Lawyers Cooperative, now the Aqueduct Building, where it stands today.
When Mercury was designed there was not a peregrine on his fist, so what is he really looking at? Oddly, he is holding not the usual staff but a bag of gold. This is rather mercenary, but then the word mercenary is derived from Mercury's name.
Mercury's fist is one of Beauty's favorite perches as it gives her a good vantage point for surveying her domain. She watches for tasty pigeons on the waterfront and scans the sky for potentially dangerous rivals. Carol Phillips, who took this picture, tells me there are six peregrines in Rochester right now so Beauty is staying close to her nest site on the Times Square Building, making sure it's still hers this coming spring.
Carol has many more pictures of Rochester's peregrine falcons. Click here to see.
(photo by Carol Philips, Rochester, NY)