The humble taxi has taken hundreds of years to really develop, and as it has developed, it has ended up having many different forms. So what do you know about the history of the taxicab?The first ever ‘taxi’ as we would understand it is almost four hundred years old, but it was not called a taxi then. They were carriages, pulled by four horses, and were called hackney carriages because of the design of the carriage. The idea to charge someone money to be taken to a very specific place seemed to have been thought of almost simultaneously on both sides of the pond: Paris and London had hackney carriages for hire in the seventeenth century, but London claims to be the first, offering fares from 1605. It wasn’t until 1625 that carriages could be hired from innkeepers so that visitors could travel around London in style, and it was another eleven years before the first ‘taxi’ rank was created on The Strand.
The hackney carriage, however, was not well designed. In 1834, Joseph Hanson created a new kind of carriage that only needed one horse to pull it. This made it lighter, cheaper to hire (because you were only hiring one horse, not four), and much easy to control. By the late nineteenth century, however, technology was starting to make its mark. Walter C. Bersey created electric taxis that were in operation from 1897, and many people called them ‘hummingbirds’ because of the noise that they would make as they went up and down the streets of London.
Nowadays, of course, there are many kinds of taxis all over the world. In the UK we stick to cars, but you can find water taxis in Venice and rickshaws which are bicycle powered taxis in India. How many types of taxis have you been in?