First taxi was launched in 1907 by a businessman Harry N. Allen through his company New York Taxicab Company. These were the first fleet of gasoline-powered cabs. The taxis were imported from France and were equipped with “taximeters” to charge fees based on mileage, manned by drivers dressed like West Point cadets. The taxis were originally painted red and green.
The First Yellow Taxi Company
A Chicago entrepreneur John Hertz, in 1915, opened the first Yellow Cab Company in his city. While choosing the best color for the cabs, Hertz commissioned a local university study by the students of University of Chicago to “scientifically ascertain which color would stand out strongest at a distance,” per his biographer—and yellow won. Till date, color researchers agree that yellow is the most visible color, though some have suggested that it’s chartreuse that the eye most easily detects. Thus, the first ever yellow taxi emerged, and the idea stuck from then on.
This story ignores the fact that yellow taxis had already appeared in various American cities before 1915. Businessman Albert Rockwell was operating a fleet of yellow cabs since 1909, as Yellow Taxicab Co. in NYC. Legend has it that Rockwell was merely appeasing his wife Nettie, who preferred the color.
Now, according to the law, all medallion cabs must be yellow, and any other vehicles for hire can be any color besides yellow.
Cabs Around the World
In some cities, like London for example, cabs have always been historically black, and that has not changed since the 17th century when they used a horse and carriage. The iconic history of these cabs makes them stand out without having to be bright yellow!
So now the next time you see a taxi, you will know where its color came from!