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History of the Taxi Cab


The Taxi Cab also called a cab or taxi, is a mode of transport that a lot of people rely a lot on in modern cities. This is true even in countries where the railway system is well developed and reliable, more so in countries that aren’t.

It’s a convenient way to travel from one location to the next, and even people who own a car use the service from time to time.

The forms of taxi cabs seem to vary with each country. Some forms included are

  • Hackney carriage or public hire. Hailed by passengers at taxi bays, by calling them out or blowing a loud whistle. This is also now accessible through mobile devices with the help of Uber and Grab.
  • Private Hire Cabs.  These are cabs only licensed to operate via pre-booked transactions. SGMaxi is a good example of this service with available 7-seater maxi cabs as well as 9 and 13 seater mini buses for hire.
  • Taxi buses, Mini-buses or jitneys. These are the types that only travel on a defined route boarding and un-boarding passengers on specific stops
  • Limousine services. These are specialized transport services with the VIP flair availed only via pre-booking. A service which SGMaxi also offers at affordable prices. Some of which include our Alphard Vellfire Limousine service as well as Mercedes limousine service.

Each country has their own varied way of charging, dispatching and regulating taxi cabs and its forms there are also similarities between each. But they weren’t always the gas powered vehicles we know now.

The “Taxicab” Name

Taxicab is actually a compound word that stemmed from taximeter and cabriolet. The former being a German word meaning “to charge”, this also was also used to convey the same meaning in Ancient Greek and Medieval Latin. Meanwhile, cabriolet, is a form of carriage carried by a horse and has its own French, Italian and Latin etymology.

It was France who first called taxis as taximeters, and London was the first to call them taxicabs in the early 1907. When the New York Taxicab Company, led by Harry Nathaniel Allen, imported New York City’s first 600 petrol-powered taxicabs from France in 1907 they opted to borrow the same name used by Englishmen from London. Hence the Taxicabs of New York.

Earlier Forms

Hackney Carriages originally started in Paris and London as early as the 17th Century. Back then, of course, they were powered by horses. London was the pioneer based on documented evidence dated in the year 1605. It was initially a service provided by innkeepers as a service to merchants, visitors and customers. And it was in 1662 that the first hackney-carriage license was issued in London.

Meanwhile, in Paris, Nicholas Sauvage pioneered a similar service he called fiacres. The same horse-drawn carriages that were for hire. In Austria, they used the German word fiaker to refer to this same transport.

Come the 18th century, by 1834 an architect from New York named Joseph Hansom applied improvements on the Hackney Carriage structure and pioneered the Hansom Cabs. The 4-wheeled Hackney Carriages were replaced by these 2 to 3-wheeled vehicles which turned out to be more easily maneuvered through London’s then famous traffic jams and were also found to be safer around corners. Though its practical features were further improved by John Chapman and a number of other people, the name Hansom Cab was retained.

Also in the 18th century, Toronto, Canada’s first taxicab service was founded by Thornton Blackburn, he called it “The City”.
Meanwhile, in Japan, their cabs for hire where the 2-3 wheeled carts pulled by one man called the Rickshaw (later developed into a Pedi cab with the invention of a cycle). While Italy had water taxis known as the Gondola (which is still used to date for tourists)

Meanwhile, in Japan, their cabs for hire where the 2-3 wheeled carts pulled by one man called the Rickshaw (later developed into a Pedi cab with the invention of a cycle). While Italy had water taxis known as the Gondola (which is still used to date for tourists)

Modern Taxicabs came about in the 19th century. These were powered by electric batteries. They were called “hummingbirds” in London due to the sound they made, and were designed by Walter C. Bersey, who also introduced a fleet of these modern cabs in London’s streets by 1897.

Meanwhile, in the same year, New York City was also introduced to the same upgrade in their cabs when Samuel’s Electric Carriage and Wagon Company started their services with 12 electronic hansom cabs. This later grew to 62 cabs until the Electric Vehicle Company had them reformed.

The continued development in the engineering and technology of vehicles later led to the taxicabs that we know now. And tt’s services has far expanded from the simple transportation from route-to-route to now include VIP limo services, family and group accommodating travel vehicles and the regular hire taxis we hail out on the streets or book via our taxi-booking apps.

SG Maxi looks to being a leader in the quality of service the modern day taxi cabs for hire have to offer today. And we will continue to apply the best standards in our services and vehicles.