No matter where you find yourself in the civilized world today, you will encounter universal, familiar, and dear-to-the-heart consequences of globalization – the yellow “McDonald’s” sign and yellow taxis, or at worst, the classic checkerboard pattern of a taxi. Yellow is a symbol of hospitality in any city, even if it’s completely unfamiliar. But why this color? It’s particularly interesting to know how it came to be that taxis are yellow.
Since the end of the 19th century, the era of automobile manufacturing began, gradually leading to a decline in the use of horse-drawn carriages. Despite their environmental friendliness, horses pulling carriages could no longer keep up with the pace of big cities. The rapid technological progress affected everyone and everything.
In the early 20th century, the first mass automobile carriers, or taxis, appeared in the big cities of America and Europe. The vehicle itself did not imply any additional nuances besides comfort, which is why almost all cars were black or dark gray. Only one of the numerous companies specializing in transportation, the Yellow Cab Company founded by John Hertz in 1910, entered history. Yes, you could see yellow taxis before him, but he made it a trademark feature.
John Hertz was engaged in the automobile trade, implementing a scheme called “trade-in” that was unknown to anyone at that time – when selling a new car, he would accept an old car as partial payment. That is, he combined three previously independent types of business – buying used cars, selling new ones, and renting cars – into one. The used car was repainted yellow and moved to the businessman’s extensive taxi fleet.
On the gloomy streets of New York, among thousands of black lacquered cars, Hertz’s yellow taxis stood out like no other. The products that came out of Henry Ford’s factories flooded the entire American car market and, in addition, for the sake of economy, were only produced in black, continuing the traditions of assembly-line production.
Before Yellow Cab Company firmly established itself in New York, taxis were exclusively used by wealthy and affluent clients. As a result, transportation prices were high, and ordinary people could not afford such luxury. It was John Hertz who made taxis a public transportation accessible to everyone. And the lack of parking spaces in the metropolis was compensated for by the speed of service. By the way, his company was one of the first to make a statement that if the wait for a taxi exceeds 10 minutes, the ride will be free.
Henry Ford’s well-known quote “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black” received a slightly aggressive challenge. After all, black was promoted and considered a classic. Hertz’s creative solution went against all established ideas about the color of automotive technology and was therefore doomed to succeed.
Ten years after immigrating from Russia, Morris Markin founded the Checker Motors Corporation, specializing in designing its own taxis. The project was successful, producing comfortable and fast cars, which even outperformed Ford’s other automotive services.
The success of the enterprise coincided with John Hertz’s decision to sell the Yellow Cab Company. Markin combined a well-designed car with the legendary canary color, and then bought the “TAXI” brand from the Parmalee Transportation System. Later, the trademark checker pattern appeared on the side or roof of the cars. Its origin is related to Markin’s company name – the word “Checker” translates to a chessboard or “checkerboard.” Hence the inseparable pattern of “taxi – yellow color – checkerboard on the side.”
Yellow color has become symbolic for taxis not only in New York but also worldwide. In the Soviet Union, taxis became yellow in the 1970s – funny considering the Iron Curtain.
In general, taxis have their own “signature” color features in different countries around the world. They are not necessarily yellow but must have a checkered pattern and the word “TAXI” – this is an international informal standard. Taxis in Argentina and Spain are black and yellow, while in Germany they are beige. In Singapore, their distinctive feature is blue, and Mexican taxis are white and green. State taxi services in England are always black, while private ones can be any color.
Since July 1, 2018, all taxi cars in Moscow will only be yellow. This is due to the fact that it will be easier for customers to distinguish legal carriers. Since 2013, a permit for taxi services is issued only if the service or private individual has a yellow car.