History of the Taxi

Taxis are cars that you hail and then essentially rent for the time it takes you to get to your destination. They are also called cabs, taxi cabs and all manner of slang terms, but did you know that they have been around in some form or another since the 1600’s?

Of course, back in the 1600’s the taxi was a horse drawn carriage and the first documented taxi ride this way was in 1605 in London England. By 1625 carriages became available to hire from innkeepers throughout London to get their guests where they needed to be. These carriages were large and usually had to be pulled by a team of horses.

In 1834 however, changes were coming to the taxi business. A man named Joseph Hansom was an architect who came up with a lighter, smaller and faster cab design that he named the hansom cab, something that is still used today to describe the horse drawn variety that grace Central Park in New York. Because this new design only needed one horse to pull it, it was cheaper to rent and had a low center of gravity which made it safer and able to negotiate corners much better than the predecessors could.

The first taxi cabs in Toronto appeared in 1837 and by 1907 they had made it to New York. Harry Allen imported 600 taxis from France in 1907 and painted them all yellow so they could be easily seen. He took the term taxicab from the words taximeter which means tax, charge or scale of charges and cabriolet which means a type of horse drawn carriage. Together the taxicab was born. These were gasoline driven cars and the first of their kind in the United States. Paris and London had already been using them for several years.

Of course taxis are all gas powered cars now and in New York they are still yellow. Taxis around the world can still be animal or people powered (think the rickshaw or pedicabs, and of course there are still a number of horse drawn carriages in operation). Water taxis are also big business in other places throughout the world as they take people where they need or want to go over water not road. Hey, a taxi is a taxi!

Taxis today are an economical way to get around, especially in large cities. You hail one, get in and get to your destination. All thanks to the cab.

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