Taxi! Six trivia bits about New York’s fleet of yellow cars

—Gwen Bardeen Gethner

Did you know these fun facts about the history of cabs and cabbies in New York?

  • The system of cab driving as we know it today started when a hansom driver overcharged a passenger in 1907, sparking the idea for a standardized taxi system.
  • Jazz Age cabbies were known for connecting their fares with prostitutes.
  • Over 50,000 men held hack licenses for driving cabs in 1931.
  • Significant numbers of women first started driving taxis during World War II, when the shortage of male labor provided openings.
  • Mike Quill, one of the co-founders of the Transport Workers Union of America, referred to cabbies as “the limping proletariat” because they received little attention from union leaders.
  • In the 1960s, the phrase “driving stick-up” meant disabling the meter and then negotiating a fare with the passenger—to the driver’s financial advantage!

Learn about all these and more in Taxi! A Social History of the New York City Cabdriver by Graham Russell Gao Hodges. (P.S.: The book is on sale for 30% off this holiday season, so grab your copy now!)

Gwen Bardeen Gethner is an editorial intern at NYU Press and a Master’s candidate in the History of Women and Gender at NYU.

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