1910 NYC Taxi Cab
View of a hansom cab, parked at the sidewalk, near Madison Square, New York, 1905.PhotoQuest—Getty Images
1910 NYC Taxi Cab
NYC Taxi Cab 1910
First Woman Taxi Driver in New York City
NYC Taxi Cab 1934
NYC Taxi Cab 1946
NYC Taxi Cabs 1954
1960 NYC Taxi
NYC Taxi Cab 1970
NYC Taxi Cab 1982
NYC Taxi Cab 1995
2011 NYC Taxi
View of a hansom cab, parked at the sidewalk, near Madison Square, New York, 1905.
PhotoQuest—Getty Images
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See Photos of Vintage New York Taxi Cabs

Jun 18, 2015

From horse-drawn carriages to today's hybrid sedans, New Yorkers have long relied on cabs to get around town. But no cab is more ingrained in city lore than the boxy Checker. And it was on this day, June 18, 1923, that the first one was manufactured at the Checker Cab factory in Kalamazoo, Mich. By 1930, TIME was reporting that Checker would soon control a full 10% of all of the taxis in the nation.

An even higher percentage were Checkers by 1963, when TIME took a look at where they came from:

The roomy Checker cab , one of the few taxis left that passengers can climb into without awkward gymnastics, is a familiar sight on many U.S. streets; of the nation's 135,000 taxicabs, some 35,000 are Checkers. Less familiar to the public and the financial world is the firm that makes them: closemouthed Checker Motors Corp. of Kalamazoo, Mich.

Separated from the Detroit automotive world by choice and philosophy, Checker is the nation's smallest full-scale automaker. Last year it turned out 8,000 cars and, for the first time in a decade, showed an operating profit—$559,000 on sales of $23 million. Partly responsible for the profit is the fact that Checker has been doing a tidy business in selling souped-up dressed-up versions of its spartan, boxy cabs as family cars, stationwagons and limousines. The reason for their success (they now account for 40% of production), says Checker President Morris Markin with understandable prejudice, is that riding in many low-slung conventional cars nowadays is "like sitting in a bathtub."

The good times couldn't last. In 1982, the company stopped making taxis. It was the end of an era—but, as these photos show, it was just one of many.

A New York City doorman flags down a taxi for one of the residents of his building, 1944.
A New York City doorman flags down a taxi for one of the residents of his building, 1944.William C. Shrout—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
A New York City doorman flags down a taxi for one of the residents of his building, 1944.
Scene in New York City, 1944.
Scene in New York City, 1944.
Taxicabs line up for arriving train passengers at (the original) Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 1944.
New York cabbies sporting their numbered Public Hack Driver badges, 1944.
Scene in New York City, 1944.
Taxi "hack stand," New York City, 1944.
Train passengers wait to take taxi cabs outside (the original) Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 1944.
Close-up of typical cab driver's report including locations and fares collected during his day's work; taxicab drivers lined up at company's garage to turn in money collected in fares during the day (right), New York City, 1944.
Mechanics use a hoist to drop in the motor of a taxicab under repair at cab company's maintenance garage, NYC, 1944.
Taxicabs on Park Avenue, NYC, 1944.
Scene in New York City, 1944.
A New York City doorman flags down a taxi for one of the residents of his building, 1944.
William C. Shrout—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
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