Hertz - 1915-present - Chicago, Illinois


John Daniel Hertz and Fannie Kesner Hertz...
a biographical sketch

Enhancement of the technological strength of the United States and of the American way of life were paramount in John Hertz's plan for the utilization of the fortune amassed during his successful career. Outstanding among the qualities that distinguished Mr. and Mrs. Hertz was an extraordinary love for and devotion to this country.

Some of the events in his life serve to illustrate that this land is one of truly exceptional opportunity for those who combine the requisite intelligence, integrity, willingness to work hard, and the qualities of honor and consideration in their relationships exemplified by John Hertz.

John Daniel Hertz was born on April 10, 1879. When he was five years old, Mr. Hertz's family immigrated to this country from the little village of Vrutsky, in what was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and later became Czechoslovakia. After his family settled in Chicago, he attended public school for only a short time before leaving home at age eleven to earn his own living. He worked as a newsboy and then as a copyboy in a newspaper office until his health became impaired, and he was forced to seek open-air employment and to develop his body. He found work on horse-drawn delivery trucks and, in his spare time, joined a gymnasium frequented by professional boxers. As he regained his physical strength, he began to take boxing lessons and was encouraged, while only sixteen years of age, to engage in public boxing matches. The small sums paid to him for these activities were sorely needed. He also found that he could augment his income by providing information collected at the gymnasium for the sports page of the newspaper which had formerly employed him.

Upon delivering information to the Chicago Record sports editor on one particular evening, he was invited to write up a news story based on his information, an event that he always considered as the turning point of his life. Through laborious self-training, he became a successful sports writer, eventually gaining his own by-line. As an additional source of revenue, he performed miscellaneous jobs at the racetracks in and around Chicago, an activity also prompted by his love of horses.

In his early twenties, he met Fannie Kesner, a member of a well-to-do Chicago family, and they were married on July 15, 1903. The marriage proved to be an enduring and happy one. They had three children: the late Leona Hertz Saks, the eldest; the late John Hertz, Jr., a former advertising executive; and the late Helen Hertz Hexter. Fannie Hertz, a devoted mother, was also the constant companion and inspiration of Mr. Hertz throughout his lifetime. Their many friends characterized Mrs. Hertz as the most solicitous, devoted and understanding of wives. She participated in all activities, helped to build their many enduring friendships and shared his hobbies and love of horses. Her gracious hospitality to their many friends and acquaintances from all over the nation was legendary.

The merger of the Chicago Record with the Chicago Herald terminated Mr. Hertz's employment as a sports writer, and made it necessary for him to seek other employment in order to provide for the needs of his growing family. He became an automobile salesman and, from the outset, was astonishingly successful. He was indefatigable and highly persuasive, and soon discovered that the only way he could sell most customers a second automobile was to take back the first on a trade-in basis. This was a real innovation at the time, and resulted in tying up most of his capital in used, high-priced automobiles, for which there was very little demand. Undaunted, Mr. Hertz formed a profitable business relationship with Mr. Walden Shaw, and provided the automobiles for Mr. Shaw's motor livery service. The expense involved, however, made the use of automobiles in this way by the ordinary individual quite infrequent. Mr. Hertz felt that, if rates could be reduced, it might be possible to develop a mass market. Wishing for the automobiles of his proposed service to be easily recognizable, he determined after some research that the now-famous yellow color for taxi-cabs would best serve his purposes.

With a group of associates including Mr. Shaw, he formed the Yellow Cab Company in 1915. He invented and developed techniques for maintenance, supervision, operation and service of his cab fleet which were so successful that the Yellow Cab Company was able to franchise operations in cities throughout the country and to perform instructional, management and supervisory services for these various Yellow Cab Companies.

A problem then developed which was responsible for another highly successful enterprise of John Hertz. The automobiles at his command were not rugged enough to withstand the hard service to which taxicabs were put in those early days, when country roads and even side streets were a far cry from the smooth streets and highways of today. Mr. Hertz decided that it would be necessary to build a taxicab that could take such punishment, and so he organized the Yellow Cab Manufacturing Company. Mr. Hertz organized the Hertz Drive-Yourself Corporation in 1924 in order to further develop the market for the automobiles produced by this company. He commenced to conduct, on a nationwide basis, the business of leasing cars and trucks, a radical idea for its time. In 1926 the Yellow Cab Manufacturing Company, including the Drive-Yourself Division, was sold to General Motors and Mr. Hertz joined the Board of Directors of GM at the age of 46.

John Hertz's interest in transportation motivated him to take a leading role in the development of the urban motorbus systems of New York. Mr. Hertz was responsible for the creation of the plan under which the street railways of New York were converted to motorbus systems. Control of operations, in New York through the Fifth Avenue Coach Company, and in Chicago through the Chicago Motor Coach Company, was vested in the Omnibus Corporation, formed for that purpose. Eventually, the Chicago Motor Coach Company was sold to the Chicago Transit Authority, and the Omnibus Corporation acquired the Hertz Drive-Yourself System from General Motors Corporation, disposing of its New York City bus operations in the process. The name Omnibus Corporation was changed to the Hertz Corporation, which now carries on a worldwide truck and automobile renting and leasing business.

Mr. Hertz was invited to become a major partner in the Lehman Brothers investment-banking firm in 1933, and remained a member of this firm until his death in 1961. The relationship was far more than a merely successful business association. Mr. Hertz cherished the friendship and affection of the partners, and particularly that of Robert Lehman, as one of the greatest satisfactions of his life.

In both World Wars, Mr. Hertz rendered valuable assistance in the nation's defense program. During World War I, he was Special Advisor in transportation matters to the Secretary of War, and in World War II, he was a dollar-a-year man on the staff of Undersecretary of War Robert P. Patterson, as the expert advisor on all matters concerned with wheeled vehicles. During this World War II period, he lived in Washington and was primarily concerned with his work in the War Department. In 1947, he received the Medal and Certificate of Merit of the new Department of Defense, in recognition of his valued contributions to the defense of the nation.

Despite his active business career, Mr. Hertz found time to devote to other aspects of public service, among them service as a director of the Arthritis and Rheumatism Foundation and as a trustee of the Lovelace Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

For his dedication to service in the defense of the United States, as exemplified by his endowment of the Hertz Foundation, John Hertz was decorated in 1958 by the Secretary of Defense with the Defense Department Certificate of Appreciation, the Defense Department's highest civilian award at that time.

During their lifetimes, Mr. and Mrs. Hertz were recognized as outstanding leaders in the field of breeding and racing horses. Mr. Hertz formed a group of prominent citizens in Illinois to acquire and develop the Arlington Racetrack in Arlington, Illinois. Under Mr. Hertz's guidance, this became one of the leading tracks in the country. He was a member of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association and was associated with the Keeneland, Santa Anita and Hollywood Turf Clubs. Among the outstanding horses bred or owned by Mr. and Mrs. Hertz were Reigh Count and Count Fleet. Reigh Count not only won the Kentucky Derby, but also, after demonstrating his championship caliber in the United States, raced in England where he won a number of important events. Count Fleet, bred by Mr. and Mrs. Hertz, won the famous Triple Crown, and sired many renowned offspring. The Hertzs' principal breeding farm was located in Paris, Kentucky, in the famous Blue Grass region.

In summing up John Hertz's illustrious career, Mr. Robert Lehman eloquently declared that, by his efforts, character and capabilities, Mr. Hertz became a champion in a number of categories: in business, particularly in the transportation field; in the field of investment banking; and, with his beloved wife Fannie, in the field of breeding and racing thoroughbred horses. To these achievements may well be added his reputation as a most devoted husband, a steadfast friend, and a man with a passionate affection for and devotion to the land of his adoption.



The 50th anniversary of the founding of Yellow Cab Company was marked on March 2. Since incorporation in 1915 it has grown to become the largest, as well as the oldest taxicab firm in existence today.

It all started back in 1905 when Walden W Shaw and John Hertz became partners in an auto agency. A year later the Walden W Shaw company was incorporated and in 1907 it purchased a number of small Thomas taxicabs equipped with meters. The shaw Livery Company , a combination of several cab and livery firms, came into existence in 1910. It operated Keaton Thomas Flyers, and of all things Cadillac’s as Taxicabs.

None of these met the requirements of taxi business, so a decision was made to design a special purpose car strictly for taxi use. New Year’s Eve 1914 saw the completion of the design work on the Yellow Cab Mfg. Co. Cab. The first one (Model J) hit the streets in August 1915. Prior to this the Shaw and yellow had used some 12 different makes of cars.

With the new Yellow, the company went all-out for volume business. Fares in 1915-16 were at one point reduced to 25c for the first one-half mile and 10c for each succeeding mile. Rates of the course have fluctuated through the years dependant largely upon the nations economy. In the 20’s the average one-mile ride cost ranged between 30c to 45c. At the height of the depression in 1933 the same ride charge dipped to 20c.

From the first yellow Cab Co. assumed the role of "pioneer of the taxi industry". The first major change was adoption of a distinctive colour – one that would always be recognised as meaning "taxicab". Yellow was selected as the result of a survey by well-known research institute. Interestingly in those years ownership of an automobile meant status. Anyone riding in an pre-yellow coloured cab might have been thought to own a car with chauffeur. But to ride in a common taxicab was not dignified at all. It took some doing , but the picture changed so that riding in a Yellow meant that – here was someone who could afford the comfort and carefree ease of a taxicab ride!

Another big Yellow first was the development and use of balloon tires on taxicabs. The company was also the first to use automatic windshield wipers, ultrahigh frequency two-way radios and in recent years it was the first large fleet to use transistorised UHF radio, and passenger seat belts.

Yellow Cab is still at the cutting edge. Recently with the introduction of a completely computerised job management and distribution system, Global Positioning Satellite (Satellite tracking) in all cabs, easycab phone ordering, realtime Internet taxi ordering, and soon EFTPOS in the cabs will be sure to maintain their position as market leaders.


Car rental, the largest and best known of Hertz' activities, is conducted from approximately 1,900 locations in the United States and from approximately 5,100 international locations. Hertz offers a wide variety of current-model cars on a short-term rental basis -- daily, weekly or monthly -- at airports, in downtown and suburban business centers, and in residential areas and resort locales.

Today, Hertz' Worldwide Reservations Centers handle approximately 40 million phone calls and delivers approximately 30 million reservations annually.

Hertz, the world's leading vehicle renting organization, is represented in the United States and more than 150 foreign countries, operating from 7,000 locations.

Wholly owned subsidiaries of Hertz include:

Hertz Equipment Rental Corporation (HERC), which rents a full range of construction and industrial equipment to contractors, industrial and government markets and offers quality used equipment for sale.

Hertz Claim Management Corporation is a Third Party Liability Claims Administrator providing services to major corporations, self insured entities and the insurance marketplace.

Hertz Local Edition® (HLE), which specializes in insurance replacement and local car rentals for those customers whose personal cars are being repaired or are otherwise out of service.


In September of 1918, the pioneer of auto renting, Walter L. Jacobs, at the age of 22, opened a car-rental operation in Chicago. Starting with a dozen Model T Fords, which he repaired and repainted himself, Jacobs expanded his operation to the point where, within five years, the business generated annual revenues of about $1 million.


In 1923, Jacobs sold his car-rental concern to John Hertz, President of Yellow Cab and Yellow Truck and Coach Manufacturing Company. Jacobs continued as Hertz' top operating and administrative executive.

This rental business, called Hertz Drive-Ur-Self System, was acquired in 1926 by General Motors Corporation when it bought Yellow Truck from John Hertz.


In 1932, Hertz opened the first rent-a-car facility at Chicago's Midway Airport. Later that same year, to further facilitate the world's adjustment to travel by air, Hertz introduced the first Fly/Drive car rental program.


In 1953, the Hertz properties were bought from GMC by the Omnibus Corporation, which divested itself of its bus interests and concentrated solely on car and truck renting and leasing. A year later, a new name was taken -- The Hertz Corporation -- and it was listed for the first time on the New York Stock Exchange. Jacobs became Hertz' first President and served in that post until his retirement in 1960. He died in 1985 at the age of 88.

In 1954, the new corporation bought Metropolitan Distributors, a pioneer in New York truck leasing dating back to the World War I and the largest concern of its kind in any one city. In the process, the head of Metropolitan, Leon C. Greenbaum, became Vice Chairman of the Hertz Board of Directors; he later became Chairman, and in 1960, Chief Executive Officer.


In 1967, The Hertz Corporation became a wholly owned subsidiary of RCA Corporation and operated as a separate entity, with its own management and Board of Directors.


In 1970, Hertz established its Worldwide Reservations Center in the heartland, Oklahoma City, and a year later Hertz' Data Center was also opened in Oklahoma City. Hertz went on-line, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, all over the world.


In 1984, Hertz first developed and introduced Computerized Driving Directions (CDD) and became the first car rental company to offer this service. CDD was made available at over 100 airport and downtown locations throughout the U.S. and Canada. The directions were available at customer rental locations through easy-to-use, self-service, touch-screen terminals. Hertz offered the directions in six languages: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish.

In 1985, Hertz joined UAL, Inc. On December 30, 1987, Hertz was sold to Park Ridge Corporation, a company formed by Ford Motor Company and certain members of Hertz senior management for the purpose of purchasing Hertz. In 1988, Volvo North America Corporation joined Ford and Hertz management as an investor in Park Ridge Corporation.

Hertz Instant Return, introduced in 1987, further streamlined the return side of the car rental transaction. At the car return lot, the Hertz agent meets the returning customer with the Instant Return hand-held computer. Today, Hertz has more than 100 locations offering this service around the world.

In 1989, in the U.S., Hertz redefined the car rental business with its #1 Club Gold® Service, which became an international symbol for "fast service." This premium, expedited rental service which is available in more than 800 locations today, provides car rental customers with the ultimate in speed and quality. With #1 Club Gold, customers have no unnecessary paperwork at the time of rental and no long lines.


In 1991, Hertz #1 Club Gold service was exported to Canada, to Europe in 1992 and Asia Pacific in 1993.

That same year, Park Ridge Corporation was merged into The Hertz Corporation. In 1994, Ford purchased the outstanding shares of Hertz and Hertz' became an independent, wholly owned subsidiary of Ford.

Also, in 1994, Hertz opened its Financial Center, which joined its Worldwide Reservations and Data Centers in Oklahoma City.

In 1995, Hertz introduced in the U.S. its NeverLost® on-board navigation system. The user friendly route-guidance system provides turn-by-turn driving directions to virtually any destination within a geographic area by means of an in-car video screen, with computer-generated voice prompts, mounted in the front of the car's interior between driver and passenger seats.

In 1997, Hertz launched its new website, hertz.com. The site featured facts and figures on Hertz' fleet, including a visual vehicle guide, corporate information and details on Hertz' services, promotions and partnerships. The interactive portion of the site offers rate quotations as well as booking, confirmation and cancellation capabilities for customers and travel agents.

On April 25, 1997, Hertz became a publicly traded company, listed on the New York Stock Exchange, under the symbol "HRZ."

In October 1997, Dublin Ireland became home to Hertz Europe's Service Center. The Center is Hertz Europe's centralized reservations center handling calls from France, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland and the U.K.

In 1998, Hertz and Magellan Corporation announced the formation of an exclusive joint venture to oversee the expansion and operation of Hertz' NeverLost navigation system. Under the joint venture 40,000 "next generation" units have been deployed in the U.S. and Canada. This joint venture marks Hertz as the leader in this cutting-edge global positioning technology.

In 1999, Hertz and Toyota formed a car rental partnership in Japan, making available to Hertz customers car rental service at 1,100 locations in that country.


In May 2000, Hertz opened its second US reservations center in Saraland, Alabama, a municipality of Mobile County.

In July 2000, Hertz introduced a new, three tiered program for its top level #1 Club Gold members with the incorporation of #1 Club Gold® Five Star and #1 Club Gold® Presidents' CircleSM levels.

On March 9, 2001, Hertz became a wholly owned subsidiary of Ford when Ford reacquired the outstanding 18.5% of Hertz' stock.

In June 2001, Hertz launched another new level or premium car rental service with the introduction of the Hertz Prestige Collection. Offering vehicles from Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln and Volvo, Hertz Prestige Collection combines luxury vehicles with Hertz' exclusive customer services.



For more information please read:

Beverly Rae Kimes - The Classic Car

Beverly Rae Kimes - The Classic Era

Beverly Rae Kimes - Packard: A History of the Motorcar and Company

Beverly Rae Kimes & Henry Austin Clark Jr. - Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942

Richard Burns Carson - The Olympian Cars

Raymond A. Katzell - The Splendid Stutz

Marc Ralston - Pierce Arrow

Brooks T. Brierley - There Is No Mistaking a Pierce Arrow

Brooks T. Brierley - Auburn, Reo, Franklin and Pierce-Arrow Versus Cadillac, Chrysler, Lincoln and Packard

Brooks T. Brierley - Magic Motors 1930

Nick Georgano - The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile: Coachbuilding

John Gunnell - Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1946-1975

James M. Flammang & Ron Kowalke - Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1976-1999

Daniel D. Hutchins - Wheels Across America: Carriage Art & Craftsmanship

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Dictionary of World Coachbuilders and Car Stylists

Michael Lamm and Dave Holls - A Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design

Thomas E. Bonsall - The Lincoln Motorcar: Sixty Years of Excellence

Fred Roe - Duesenberg: The Pursuit of Perfection

Arthur W. Soutter - The American Rolls-Royce

John Webb De Campi - Rolls-Royce in America

Hugo Pfau - The Custom Body Era

Hugo Pfau - The Coachbult Packard

Griffith Borgeson - Cord: His Empire His Motor Cars

Don Butler - Auburn Cord Duesenberg

George H. Dammann - 90 Years of Ford

George H. Dammann & James K. Wagner - The Cars of Lincoln-Mercury

Thomas A. MacPherson - The Dodge Story

F. Donald Butler - Plymouth-Desoto Story

Fred Crismon - International Trucks

George H. Dammann - Seventy Years of Chrysler

Walter M.P. McCall - 80 Years of Cadillac LaSalle

Maurice D. Hendry - Cadillac, Standard of the World: The complete seventy-year history

George H. Dammann & James A. Wren - Packard

Dennis Casteele - The Cars of Oldsmobile

Terry B. Dunham & Lawrence R. Gustin - Buick: A Complete History

George H. Dammann - Seventy Years of Buick

George H. Dammann - 75 Years of Chevrolet

John Gunnell - Seventy-Five Years of Pontiac-Oakland


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