Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Taxi Anyone? When Did They Start?

Taxi Cab Traffic Cab New York Street Road  You've seen it in the movies, someone steps out of the building, whistles and a taxi pulls over to pick them up.  In many of the hubs in Alaska such as Bethel, Nome, Kotzebue, taxi's work a bit differently.

You call a cab and for a set fee, they'll take you anywhere in town along with a bunch of other people.  These drivers make their money by stuffing the car with as many people as they can because of the price charged per rider.

But have you ever wondered when taxi's started?  I never actually thought about it because I've spent most of my adult life living in places without taxi's and when I'm in town, I don't usually use them.  I rely on public transport, friends, or shuttles.

A type of ride for hire has been around since the early 1600's.  England passed its first laws controlling horse and carriages for hire in 1635 while five years later a man began offering horses and carriages for hire in Paris in 1640. From this point on, people hired this mode of transport to travel across major cities or across Europe.  Usually members of the middle class such as merchants and innkeepers preferred to travel this way.

By the mid-1800's someone made changes to this mode of transport to make the carriage, lighter, faster and smoother.  It was renamed the "Handsome Cab" so that it could be pulled by one horse.  This allowed the cab to move quicker and was easier to move around city streets.

The word Taxicab actually comes from the taximeter, an instrument which measured distance so the correct fair could be calculated. This particular instrument was invented in 1891 by a German.  About the same time, people started taxi companies in London and New York used motorized vehicles but they didn't have the taximeter.

 The first real motorized taxi was invented in 1897 by Gottlieb Daimler when he built the Daimler Victoria, the first gas powered dedicated taxi complete with a taximeter.  The first taxi was delivered to an entrepreneur who created the first taxi company in Stuttgart Germany.

Once the taxi hit the roads, accidents followed. The first recorded fatality occurred in September of 1899 in New York City.  The person killed was helping a friend cross the street when one of the one hundred taxi's lost control and hit him.  By 1907, taxi's were plentiful on New York streets so one enterprising owner obtained permission to paint his cabs yellow because it was the color most easily seen at a distance, thus the Yellow cab company was born.

In 1922,  the Checkered Cab company in Joliet Illinois began producing three checkered taxicabs a day. The company added stripes of black and white checkered areas running down the side of yellow cabs.  As time passed, everyone realized that rules had to be instituted for both drivers and passengers but it was not a concerted effort until much later.

One of the biggest leaps forward in the taxi industry came with the invention of two way radios.  Dispatch could keep their drivers on the road, going from one place to the next without interruption.  This lead to more people being transported.

By 1950, there were over 12,000 taxicabs servicing New York City alone.  Cabs could be found in all major cities nationwide.  In 1971, owners got together to create the Taxi and Limousine commission so everyone operated under the same rules, making it safer for both drivers and passengers.  About the same time, New York City demanded all taxicabs be painted yellow to cut down on the number of fraudulent drivers.

In 2012, there were over 240,000 registered cabs operating in the United States twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  Think about this, the next time you have to use a cab.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear. 


  1. what a great compilation of information.Never thought of it. Thanks

    1. Thank you for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed reading it.