While John Daniel Hertz (b. April 10, 1879, d. October-8-1961) is best
remembered for the car rental company that bears his name, that enterprise
was perhaps the least of his accomplishments. He was in later years a
financier and a successful racehorse owner. His major accomplishment,
however, was developing the world's largest taxicab company.
The subject of this article was born as Sándor Herz on April 10, 1879 to
Jakob and Katie (Schlessinger) Herz in Vrútky (aka Ruttka), a Slovakian
village in the Tureianska župa region of the kingdom of Hungary, later
Austro-Hungary, Czechoslovakia and more recently, Slovakia.
In 1882 the Herz family emigrated to the United States, departing Bremen,
Germany on the Norddeutscher Lloyd steam ship SS Herman. On board were Jacob
(b.1836), Katie (b.1837) Jennie (b.1870), Fred (b.1872), Julie
(b.1877), John (b.1879) and Emilia (b.1881) Herz.
At some point in the immigration process, the family’s surname was
changed from Herz to Hertz. Also unknown is the family’s whereabouts and
activity between 1882 and their 1884 arrival in Chicago, although it’s
assumed they were living amongst the thousands of recently arrived Eastern
European Jews in New York City.
The union between Jacob and Katie was blessed shortly after their arrival
in Chicago with the birth of William (b.1884), their sixth child. Jacob made
a living selling hardware and crockery, eventually saving up enough money to
purchase a hotel which was later managed by his eldest son, Fred.
John D. Hertz, the subject of this story, was 5 years old when the family
arrived in Chicago. John attended public school until the fifth grade when
the adventurous lad ran away from home at the age of twelve after a sound
beating from his father which, he later admitted, he doubtless richly
The sale of his school books brought him some pocket change and he set
about looking for a job which was soon found at the Chicago Morning Herald
who hired him on as a copy boy. Hertz worked late afternoons and evenings at
the Herald, spending his days roaming the streets of Chicago. He later
remarked “I was as wild and untamed as the grass on the prairie.”
He also got into the occasional street fight, which would shortly prove
to be useful in his next career, however it also left him sickly and
malnourished. His boss at the paper forced him to visit his own doctor after
which Hertz was deemed too ill to continue his employment. It was strongly
suggested that he start eating, exercising and get a higher-paying job
working out of doors.
Hertz took a position driving a merchandise wagon from nine in the
morning to nine or ten o’clock every night in return for $6 a week, which
enabled him to eat regular meals and to join a gymnasium, where he became
friends with a number of amateur and semi-professional boxers.
He soon discovered that additional income could be gleaned from providing
news tips to Edward Sheridan, a sports writer he knew from his days at the
Chicago Morning Herald. He was paid $.25 a column inch for whatever tips he
provided, and after much encouragement from Sheridan began writing his own
stories which dramatically increased his income to the point where his
sports reporting earned him more than his work as a teamster.
Hertz had recently begun his own boxing career fighting in the Chicago
Athletic Association under the name Dan Donnelly. The pseudonym of Donnelly,
a legendary early 19th century Irish boxer, was chosen because he feared his
Jewish surname might draw the attention of anti-Semites, limiting any
potential professional career.
Unfortunately his career as a Morning Herald sports reporter was
short-lived as a 1901 merger between the Chicago Morning Herald, Chicago
Times Herald and Chicago Record (forming the Chicago Record Herald) resulted
in the elimination of his position.
The timing was unfortunate as Hertz had recently met his future wife,
Frances “Fannie” Kenser, while on one of his many trips with his friends to
Chicago’s numerous horse racing facilities.
In a 1925 interview with Bertie Charles Forbes, Hertz related:
“I analyzed my assets and my qualifications and concluded that I had
nothing but wide acquaintanceship in the sporting world. I had won several
amateur boxing tournaments at the Chicago Athletic Association and I could
see nor course open to me except to become manager of some prize fighter.
This I did.”
Hertz took to managing Benny Yanger, an up and coming pro featherweight
pugilist who he christened the “Tipton Slasher” as Yanger used to count on
victory by slashing at his opponents. Yanger had served as the office boy in
the Morning Herald editorial room in which Hertz worked.
As Yanger was only a part-time pugilist, Hertz began submitting boxing
news stories to Harvey T. Woodruff, the sports editor of the Chicago
Tribune, in order to get some much-needed cash. Woodruff took a liking to
him and a decade later became one of Yellow Cab’s early investors.
Hertz’ skill at promotion is evidenced in the following July 23, 1902
newspaper article. He states:
“Perhaps if I had not become the manager of Benny Yanger I might now be a
struggling newspaper writer. Now I am enjoying a prominent place in the
pugilistic world as a manager and my protege is earning about $10,000 a
year. This is but a prelude to the story of how little things sometimes
affect the lives of well known people.
"I don't call it ability to take a young 122-pound pugilist to the top
rounds of the ring ladder inside of two years without a defeat," remarked
the manager, "but I do call the success of the Tipton Slasher something
marvelous. Never in the history of prize fighting in America has there been
a character as strange as this young man who has not been beaten. He does
not drink, abstains from tobacco, loves his home — and he supports a big
family — keeps a bank account and is looking to the day when he can engage
in business more to his liking than boxing.
"When I assumed the task of managing him — and managers of boxers have to
exercise as much acumen if they wish to make successful business deals for
their charges as do business men — I found him willing to obey my
instructions to the letter. He contracted to do his end of the work — to
train faithfully and to make every post a winning one and the critics unite
in saying that he is the easiest of the well known boxers to handle. I never
knew Yanger to get angry at any action. He never objected to terms made by
his manager and when financial matters were adjusted he never went out to
throw his money over the bar. Once a newsboy, but a clever one, he used
every opportunity to pick up the education and has aspirations for a
university course some day when he can afford to leave the ring, Yanger
might go into the parlor of a refined family, and carry on a conversation
with the lady of the house without arousing the suspicion that he was a
By 1903 Hertz was managing a number of Chicago-based fighters who in
addition to Yanger included bantam-weight champion Harry Forbes and
welterweight champion Jack O’Keefe. By this time Hertz had become engaged to
Frances Kesner, whose old-world Dutch parents were not entirely pleased with
her fiance’s line of work.
Hertz recalled to B.C. Forbes:
“I was making fairly good money and getting lots of experience, but my
girl vowed that she would not marry me until I gave up this kind of life. As
I simply could not think of living long without her, I began looking around
for other work.
Although he continued to manage Yanger and O’Keefe into 1904, Hertz and
Frances "Fannie" Kesner (b.1881-d.1963) were married on July 15, 1903. Their
union was blessed with three children: Leona (b.1905), John D. Jr. (b.1908),
and Helen (b.1910). Leona Hertz married Chicago native Alfred Ettlinger in
1923, after which she was married for a second time to Julien Saks, the heir
and grandson of the founder of Saks Fifth Ave. Dept Store. John D. Hertz
jr., made headlines in 1942 with his marriage to Myrna Loy, from whom he was
divorced two years later. Helen Hertz married Robert M. Levy in 1935,
followed by Paul Louis Hexter in 1950.
An article in the August 9, 1904 Oshkosh Daily Northwestern hints that
Hertz might finally be ending his long association with the ring:
“‘Yanger and I will part the best of friends. Since I took up Benny,
after his third professional fight, he has earned over $73,000 in the ring.’
— John Hertz.
“‘I am old enough to shift for myself now. In the future, I shall do my
own managing. There is no feeling between Hertz and myself.’ — Benny Yanger.
“In fight circles throughout the entire country today the separation of
fighter Benny Yanger and Manager John Hertz is being eagerly discussed.
Despite the declaration of both Yanger and Hertz that their parting was a
peaceful one, all manner of stories explaining the separation are being
“It is claimed that Hertz had not been so warm toward Yanger after the
later's defeat by Anrelio Herrera that this has led to an agreement,
culminating in the separation. Hertz took hold of Yanger nearly six years
ago after the little-Italian had first broken into the fight game — in fact
after his third professional battle Hertz saw great possibilities in
Yanger and proceeded to develop them, with the result that the Italian,
until his defeats by Hanlon and Herrera, the only two in his record, was
considered in a class but little below Corbett and there were many willing
to stake large sums that he could dispose of the champion, as he had already
done once before.
“Yanger today said his plans are somewhat indefinite as yet depending
initially upon the condition of his arm which was injured in his Butte
battle. However, he expects it will be all right in a month, and he will
then be able to make a few dates. He is weighing 131 ¼ pounds and says he
can easily train down to 126 or 128. In the future he says, he intends
confining his efforts to boxing with lighter men than those whom he has met
“Jack O'Keefe, formerly Yanger's partner, probably will continue under
the management of Hertz, at least the parties interested knew of no changes
in this direction last evening. Hertz said he had made an offer for O'Keefe
for a fight on the coast, but turned it down.”
Soon after the article was published, Hertz began working as an
automobile salesman. He recalled getting his first position with B.C.
“I knew a chauffeur who was acting as a demonstrator for an automobile
agency and he felt that I should be able to capitalize my friendship with
patrons of the sport and others by becoming an automobile salesman. I got a
start, but although I worked tremendously hard, I made only $800 the first
year, not enough to keep us – yes I got married. But the second year I made
$12,000, and the next year I sold more than the manager and seven or eight
salesmen combines. I earned $13,500 this third year.
“I was determined that my wife’s folks should not be in a position to
point their finger at us. This fired me with ambition. Then, of course, I
had a great many of acquaintances. But looking back, I can see that the main
reason I succeeded was because I sold, not automobiles, but service.
“When I sold a man a car, I was his servant from then on.
“If one of my customers had a breakdown at 2 o’clock in the morning he
knew that I would be on my way to help him out – cars broke down rather
often in those days. I bought supplies for them at cost and did everything I
could for them. The result was that my customers sold most of my cars for
Although he became a skilled salesman, the paltry $900 he earned during
1905 prompted him to apply for a $50-per-week job as sales manager at a
competing dealership. Although the firm’s president initially turned him
down, Hertz boasted that he could earn more than the current manager and he
was hired at a standard 5 percent commission.
Hertz never elaborated on what specific brands he sold during his early
days in the business although three decades later his friend Harvey T.
Woodruff recalled that Hertz started off selling Columbia automobiles and
quickly became the best salesman on Chicago’s automobile row.
In 1907 Hertz was asked by a fellow Chicago Athletic Association member
named Shaw to assist him in getting out of a financial embarrassment
involving his Berliet automobile distributorship.
Walden Willar Shaw (b.1879) was the son of Sarah E. (Bogardus) and
William W. Shaw, the owners of Chicago’s largest wholesale baker, the Dake
After a public school education in Chicago’s Marquette School, he
attended the Princeton-Yale Preparatory School followed by a period at the
Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. He married Bessie Kennedy in
1900 and the blessed union resulted in two daughters, Marget Elizabeth and
Bessie K. Shaw.
Shaw’s older brother Robert was a well-known Chicago automobilist, who in
May of 1901 had made a record-breaking 12-day New York to Chicago run via
Buffalo and Cleveland with his wife in a Panhard automobile.
Walden and his young wife Bessie joined his brother and sister-in-law
that December on an ambitious automobile tour of Europe. Starting from
Paris, the quartet planned on driving almost ten thousand miles through
France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, Egypt and Northern Africa.
Walden and Bessie returned to Europe in late 1904 as reported by the
“Mr. and Mrs. Walden W. Shaw of Chicago, who spent most of the first half
of 1905 in Europe, driving where fancy willed and drinking in the beauties
of France, Italy, Spain and England riding on the soft seats of a big 24-35
horsepower Panhard, at the wheel which sat Mr. Shaw, who works on the theory
that if there is going to be an road mishaps he prefers to have control of
the car himself.”
Upon his arrival back in the states, Shaw set about getting up his own
automobile business as reported by the May 17, 1906 issue of The Automobile:
“Walden W. Shaw Co., Chicago to manufacture automobiles and accessories:
capital $20,000. Incorporators: Walden W. Shaw, Bronson C. Buxton, Bessie K.
Walden W. Shaw, was listed as president and Bronson C. Buxton, secretary
and treasurer and the firm’s offices and garage was located in the heart of
Chicago’s Automobile Row at 1532-1534 Michigan Ave. The property backed up
to Wabash Ave. and was located just two blocks east of the present-day
Shaw wisely decided against manufacturing his own vehicles and in 1906
became the Chicago distributor for the Berliet and Wayne automobiles.
The November 22, 1906 issue of the Automobile recorded:
“New agencies established by the Wayne Automobile Company, Detroit, Mich.,
are as follows: Walden W. Shaw, Chicago, Ill….”
Sales of the French-built $4,500 Berliet were stagnant and by late 1907
Shaw was reportedly $45,000 in the red. Since exiting the boxing world in
1904 Hertz had made a name for himself in Chicago’s automobile circles and
was the automotive go-to man amongst the members of the Athletic
Association’s Crimson Circle.
He agreed to help Shaw out, providing he was given a 33% share in the
firm in return for a $2,000 investment. With his own reputation and $2,000
on the line Hertz promptly set about returning the Shaw Company to
He also convinced Shaw to take on an additional franchise for the ALCO
automobile. Within the year the entire $45,000 loss was wiped out and Hertz
had put the Shaw Co. $15,000 in the black.
Unfortunately the profit was represented by a whole fleet of trade-ins.
The used car business was in its infancy and it would be many years before a
dealer could turn his trade-ins into cash at the local auction. Even though
Hertz had purchased the cars at pennies on the dollar, most automobile
dealers considered trade-ins as something to be avoided, that is until they
became John D Hertz’ problem.
"As my customers weren't buyers of second-hand cars, I
had to put on my thinking cap to find some way of disposing of them or
making them earn their keep.
"Having driven a delivery wagon, I figured that there should be money in
the passenger delivery business. Joy-riding was beginning to become
popular. Families were taking to hiring a car for outings, especially on
Sundays. And a few taxis were beginning to make their appearance.
At that time horse-drawn Hansom cabs were the most popular conveyance for
transporting passengers in Chicago, although a few metered Thomas-Flyer
taxicabs had just been put into service by the Chicago distributor of the
marque, Charles A. Coey & Co.
Although Shaw’s family didn't relish the idea of being identified with
the livery trade Hertz convinced him that motorized conveyances held great
The term livery originally referred to a uniform or other insignia or
symbol worn in a non-military context on a person or object to denote a
relationship with a person or corporate body. When applied to a vehicle,
livery can denote the vehicle’s paint scheme or badging although it’s more
commonly used to denote a chauffeur-driven private car, provided to a
company or organization under contract.
In the early twentieth century the pay as you go taxicab was a recent
innovation. Private citizens would normally ride in livery vehicles provided
to them by a third party, say a private club, hotel, restaurant or
Groups like the Chicago Athletic Association were Hertz’ intended market,
and as both he and Shaw were members in good standing, he bid on their
livery contract. Shaw was short a couple of the required ten vehicles so he
borrowed a few when his fleet was inspected by the Athletic Association’s
transportation committee. Shaw was awarded the concession which enabled the
firm to purchase the remaining automobiles.
The Shaw agency sponsored George Salzman’s Thomas Flyer in the Chicago
Automobile Club’s 1908 Algonquin Hillclimb.
Although Charles A. Coey & Co., 1424-1426 Michigan Ave. were the official
Chicago distributors of the Thomas Flyer, Shaw utilized a number of Thomas
Flyer taxicabs, likely purchased from Coey, in his livery business which
might explain why he sponsored Salzman’s car in the 1908 Hillclimb.
Incidentally Coey’s advertisements claimed that he:
“placed the first taxicabs on the streets of Chicago and now owns the
best in the city. He is one of the few who made a success of the automobile livery
business, beginning with one car and increasing to fifty. Commencing with practically
nothing, he built up not only the largest automobile livery business in the
country, but also the largest automobile sales business in America.”
Although most of Shaw’s business was for private clubs and organizations,
their drivers were members of the Local 17 of the International Brotherhood
of Teamsters. Approximately 900 members of the local went on strike during
the evening of May 8, 1909, in a bid to reduce their hours, thereby
increasing their hourly wage.
At the time cab drivers received $12.00 per week for working a seven day
week, twelve hours a day, with one hour off for personal use, totaling 83
hours a week. They demanded a six-day, 72 hour work week for the same wages,
or $2 for each 12 hour shift.
Negotiations between the union and the Livery Association stalemated with
the Liverymen offering the cabbies a $1 a week raise, but with no reduction
in hours. The union declined to accept the offer, and its membership voted
to strike. The Liverymen withdrew their offer in retaliation and the
Illinois State Board of Arbitration was called in to help settle the matter.
Despite the board’s best efforts, no settlement was forthcoming and
within a couple of months most of the Union members had returned to work at
their pre-strike hours and wages. The strike only served to worsen the
already tenuous relationship between the cabbies and their employers, a
problem that John D. Hertz would soon be working to rectify, at least with
his own employees.
In addition to the Thomas Flyer taxis, Shaw and Hertz also utilized Atlas
and Jewel-Keating (later Keeton-Croxton) taxis as well as a handful of
Cadillac touring cars. During 1910 Keeton-Croxton included Shaw’s name in
the firm’s national advertising as follows:
“The Croxton Taxicabs are now being used by Walden W. Shaw Co. of Chicago
and nineteen other large taxicab companies.”
Incidentally, the bodies for the Jewel-Keating taxicabs were built by the
Acme Veneer and Body Co. of Rahway, New Jersey. The firm’s taxicabs were
designed by Forest. M. Keeton a Detroit designer whom designed the "French
Type" Croxton-Keeton cars after the French-built Renault. At a quick glance
their landaulet taxicabs could easily be mistaken for a high-priced Renault,
a fact that was not lost on Walden W. Shaw.
Media savvy Hertz also started sending out short press release to the
various Automotive trades, The following announcement appeared in the
February 10, 1910 issue of the Automobile:
“A foreigner which is almost unknown in this country, outside of Chicago,
is the Berliet, imported by Walden W. Shaw. The Berliet design, it will be
remembered, was the original of the ALCO, although the American car has long
since departed from the designs of its French parent, and now it would be a
clever man who could trace a resemblance. The Berliet cars range from a
12-horsepower up to a 60-horsepower limousine, and are a fine example of the
best French construction.”
Sometime in late 1908, Shaw formed a separate corporation, the Walden W.
Shaw Auto Livery Company. in order to keep his automobile sales and livery
firms separate. Shaw was listed as president and Hertz, secretary and
An article titled “The Taximeter Cab In Chicago”, published in the August
18, 1909 issue of Horseless Age included a couple of paragraphs highlighting
Shaw’s Livery business:
“THE WALDEN W. SHAW AUTO LIVERY COMPANY located at Twenty-first street
and Michigan avenue, occupy a three story brick and concrete building,
covering a space 60 x 130 feet. The two lower floors are used as
salesroom and garage, and the upper floor as repair shop. This
concern was organized in October, 1908 and began
business with twenty-four touring cars and two taximeter cabs. At the
present time they are operating twenty-five Thomas taximeter cabs and six
Atlas taximeter cabs, in addition to a number of touring cars, which latter
are rented by the hour only. Thirty Jewel-Keating taximeter cabs for the
exclusive use of Chicago's new hotel, "The La Salle." are under
construction, and it is safe to say that before the expiration of the
present year this company will be operating not less than 100 taximeter
cabs. This firm is referred to as the ‘Contract Company,’ the reason being
that they have contracts with the majority of the hotels and clubs to
furnish cabs. It is claimed that the average gross earnings of the cabs in
use are $27 a day. The average mileage of each car is approximately 700
miles a week.
“Drivers are paid on a commission basis, they receiving 20 per cent, of
the gross earnings. The management of this concern claim that
the drivers working on a commission basis give better service to patrons
than those receiving a salary. They contend that the man working on
commission strives to please the patron so as to hold him as a regular, and,
further, that as all of their drivers are competent and well versed in the
operation of the automobile, such a thing as abusing a car is unknown with
them. Extreme precautions are taken to prevent the overcharging of
passengers. All drivers are under a cash bond, which is held thirty days
after dismissal, and this bond is held as a sword over the head of the
driver and practically forces him to be honest, both with the firm and its
“Drunkenness or dishonesty is met with instant dismissal, and in case of
dishonesty prosecution is sure to follow. Gasoline, oil and repairs are paid
for by the company. Jones taximeters are used and are operated from the left
front wheel. For the purpose of checking the mileage shown by the taximeter,
Veeder odometers are attached to the right front wheel. This makes it
impossible for the drivers to falsify the mileage records. An accurate
account has been kept as to the average number of passengers carried per
trip, and it has been found that but 17 per cent, of the loads exceed two
persons, hence the rates are the same for either one or four passengers. In
their touring car and limousine service the rates of hire are: For one or
five passengers, inclusive, per hour $5; for each additional passenger,
extra, per hour, $1. Time is computed from the moment the car leaves the
garage until it returns.
“The taxicab rates are as follows:
For first half mile 30 cents
For each quarter mile thereafter 10 cents
For each six minutes of waiting 10 cents
No charge is made for calls provided the customer rides as far as the car
had to travel to reach him. The hourly rate is the same as that shown in the
table of the Auto Taxicab Company. All cabs are equipped with Fisk
demountables, and a mileage contract exists between the company and the tire
According to the Chicago City Clerk, during 1909 there were 16 firms
operating approximately 250 metered taxicabs in the City of Chicago, of
which the three largest were Shaw, the Owen H. Fay Livery Co, the Auto
Taxicab Co. and the Chicago Taxicab Co.
A complete list of operators follows:
Coey Auto Surrey Company, 1710 Indiana avenue.
C. W. Motley, 344 Michigan avenue.
Why-Pay-More Auto Livery, 205 East Twenty-eighth street.
Adlake Auto Livery. 5039 Cottage Grove avenue.
Auto Taxicab Company, 2441 Michigan avenue.
Central Auto Livery, corner Jackson boulevard and Franklin strict.
Central Garage Auto Livery, 276 East Fortieth street.
Colonial Auto Livery. 50 East Thirty-ninth street.
Erwin Greer, 2213 Cottage Grove avenue.
Huguelet Brothers, 204 Lincoln Park boulevard.
Walden W. Shaw Auto Livery Company, Twenty-first street and Michigan avenue.
C.W. Miller Auto Livery Company, 418 East Superior street.
H.G. McGaughy. 67 East Eighteenth street.
Owen H. Fay Livery Company, 53 Plymouth place.
W.M. Traut, 243 Michigan avenue.
Chicago Taxicab Company, 1322 Michigan avenue.
However, motorized taxicabs were not the predominate carriers at the time
as Chicago’s horse-drawn cabs and hacks outnumbered them almost 3 to 1 (700
The May 1909 issue of the Commercial Vehicle announced the formation of a
firm that would soon become important to the Shaw organization, the City
Motor Cab Co.:
“A NEW CHICAGO COMPANY
“Operations were begun in Chicago in April by the newly organized City
Motor Cab Co., of which John D. Towne and John Borden, two young men of
social prominence and well-known motorists, are proprietors. Downtown
headquarters of the company are located at 97 Randolph street, and for the
present the business is to be conducted along conservative lines pending the
placing of large orders for machines and the erection of a new garage. A
first order for ten machines was placed with the Ewing Automobile Co.,
formerly the Cleveland Autocab Co., of Geneva, O., whose product was
exhibited at the Grand Central Palace show in New York last January. A
garage, 100 by 100 feet, to cost $15,000, is being erected at Huron and
“The Ewing taxicabs, as they are called, were designed by L. P. Mooers,
formerly designer for the Peerless Motor Car Co., and are excellent
examples of engineering construction. The engine has four cylinders cast in
pairs and develops 20 horsepower. A selective three-speed transmission is
employed, with propeller drive to a live rear axle. The construction is
rendered unusual by the placing of the steering column on the left side,
while the control levers rise from the change-speed gearbox through the
center of the floor boards in front of the driver's seat and are manipulated
by the right hand.
“The bodies of the cabs supplied to the City Motor Cab Co., break back of
the side doors and are painted battleship gray with black molding and
vermilion striping. The chases are vermilion with black striping.
Upholstering is in steel gray whipcord.”
City Motor Cab’s garage was located in a group of two and three-story
brick structures leased from the Newberry Library and located East of
Fairbanks Court and extending east for a distance of about 200 feet on
Walton Place (now Walton St) between Clark and Dearborn Sts.
Also announced in the same issue of the Commercial Vehicle was the
formation of a Chicago cab-owners Association:
“CHICAGO PUBLIC CAB OWNERS ORGANIZE
“The new organization, known as the Automobile Transportation Association
of Chicago, promises to be one of the most useful that up to this time has
been formed for the benefit of owners and operators of livery cars and
taxicabs and the people who pay to ride in them.
“The association was formed about a month ago for the purposes of
promoting the business of such vehicles and protecting the men who operate
them and the citizens who use them.
“One of the primary reasons for the organization of owners was the
organization of the chauffeurs, who, it is claimed, almost at once began
making demands on the owners of livery cars and taxicabs. This in a measure
forced the owners to get together in order to meet the drivers.
“At the meeting at which the organization was effected the following
concerns were represented: Owen H. Fay Livery Co., Automobile Taxicab Co.,
Coey Auto Livery Co., Dan Canary Taxi Service Co., and Kenwood Taxicab
Service. Other concerns that are expected to become members are the Imperial
Auto Livery Co. and the Walden Shaw Taxicab Co.
“One of the first matters taken up by the new association was the
regulation of rates of fare for livery cars and taxicabs. A committee was
appointed to confer with city officials with the object of agreeing on a
schedule of rates, that is to be uniform and by which it is hoped to protect
the people from overcharge. An effort is being made to secure two different
schedules, one to be known as No. 1 and the other as No. 2. The former will
apply to vehicles carrying one or two passengers, and the other to two or
more. No. 1 contemplates a charge of 50 cents for the first mile or
fraction, 10 cents for each additional quarter of a mile, and 10 cents for
each six minutes' standing.
“It is hoped to secure a No. 2 schedule of 70 cents for the first mile or
fraction, and 10 cents for each additional fifth of a mile. The last-named
schedule applies only to vehicles carrying more than two passengers. Some of
the cab companies are now operating under both No. 1 and No. 2 schedules;
others are making use of only No. 1 or a single tariff for all kinds of
loads. Uniformity in this matter is urgently sought, and the association
hopes to bring it about.
“The double tariff is desirable for several reasons. One is that the
additional passengers put increased weight on costly tires. Then there is an
inequality in the operation of taxicabs that is sought to be overcome, in a
measure at least. That is, that many of the cabs are compelled to run light
to get a passenger, or return empty to the station after service has ended.
This ‘dead mileage’ has been a serious drawback to profits of the service,
and it is hoped that a new schedule that provides more liberally for the
carriage of more than two passengers will in a measure reimburse owners.
“Owen H. Fay, who is the president of the new organization and who is the
largest livery owner in Chicago, having the entire business of such places
as the Auditorium Annex Hotel, the Stratford, Great Northern, Palmer House,
Union League Club, Illinois Athletic Club, and the Women's Athletic Club, is
selling horses and putting in power vehicles every week. He has had a horse
livery for more than thirty years. By the end of the present year he will
have sold every horse in his barns, and be operating nothing but power
“The Emery concern, one of the largest livery companies in Chicago, sold
at auction his entire horse livery on April 8 and 9, and power vehicles,
Elmore and Studebaker cars, are being installed.
“Adams Brothers, on Forty-third street, are turning their entire
establishment into a garage, which now is nearly completed. The firm already
has commenced putting in cars for livery purposes.
“It is claimed that conditions are helping along the growth of the power
livery business. While horse vehicles are lower in price, the cost of
horseflesh and feed is higher than ever. The use of motor vehicles seems to
have had no effect in the reduction of cost of horseflesh, and this has an
influence in hastening the use of the commercial vehicle.
“TAXICAB REGULATION IN CHICAGO
“There has been pending in committee since the last week in March a bill
introduced in the Chicago Council by the Assistant Corporation Counsel, H.
W. Hayes, for the regulation of taxicabs and inspection taximeters. The
measure provides a No. 1 tariff for one or two passengers and a No. 2 tariff
for more than two passengers. It prohibits the driving of the taximeter from
the rear wheel or rear axle, and provides for the regular inspection of all
meters semi-annually by the city inspector of weights and measures, with
inspection at any time upon complaint and payment of a fee of 50 cents,
which fee is to be returned and charged to the operating company if the
meter is found inaccurate.
“One clause prohibits the application of a taximeter that has been tested
for wheels of a given diameter to cars fitted with smaller wheels, while
another forbids the setting of the instrument to register under tariff No. 2
when only one or two passengers are carried. The driver must, before turning
down the flag at the end of a service, announce the fare unless the vehicle
has been hired by the hour.
“The rates fixed by the ordinance are as follows:
TARIFF NO. 1
First half mile or fraction thereof
Each quarter mile thereafter
Each six minutes waiting
TARIFF NO. 2
First one-third mile or fraction thereof
Each one-sixth mile thereafter
Each six minutes waiting
“No charge shall be made for a distance of less than one mile traversed
by a cab in responding to a call, but beyond that distance a charge may be
made of 20 cents a mile or fraction of a mile. Nor does the bill allow a
waiting charge to be made when a cab arrives at a place of call earlier than
the time specified and has to wait for the passenger. The legal waiting time
is described as the time during which a cab is not in motion, beginning with
its engagement in the street or at a stand, or with its arrival at the place
of call at the time designated.
“It is provided that any taxicab may be hired by the hour, but the
passenger is required to specify such service when engaging the vehicle, and
the driver must then turn the flag down in inoperative position. The fare is
fixed at $3 for the first hour or fraction, and $2.50 for each subsequent
hour or fraction, when one or two passengers are carried; while for more
than two passengers the rate is $4 for the first and $3 for each successive
“Passengers may carry hand baggage free, but a charge of 20 cents may be
made for carrying a small trunk outside.
“Penalties for violating any of the provisions of the ordinance or for
using a taximeter that registers inaccurately are fines of from $5 to $50,
in the discretion of the court.”
In September of 1910 the City Motor Cab and Walden W. Shaw Auto Livery
companies were merged and reorganized as a Maine Corporation as recorded in
the September 15, 1910 issue of Motor Age:
“Taxicab Merger — Chicago's two largest taxicab livery companies have
been combined. Details of the consolidation were completed last week whereby
the Walden W. Shaw Auto Livery Co. and the City Motor Cab Co. were merged
into a new Walden W. Shaw Livery Co.
“The consolidation was effected as an economical measure. The
capitalization of the company is $1,000,000, of which $300,000 is preferred
stock and $700,000 common stock.
“Almost all of the stock is owned by four men, who are the officers of
the new company, as follows: President, Walden W. Shaw, former president of
the Walden W. Shaw Auto Livery Co.; vice-president, John D. Towne, former
secretary and treasurer of the Motor Cab Co.; secretary and treasurer, John
Borden, former president of the Motor Cab Co.; general manager, John D.
Hertz, former secretary and treasurer of the old Shaw company.
“The headquarters of the new company and the garage are to occupy the
present quarters of the Shaw company, Wabash avenue and Harmon court. The
two buildings of the other constituent company at Huron street and the lake
also are to be utilized by the new concern. The smaller building will be
used for a north side branch garage and the other for the repair end and
paint shops of the company.”
The aforementioned Jones Taximeters were introduced in 1908 by the Jones
Taximeter Co. (aka Jones Recording Instrument Co.) and sold through their
Manhattan office which was located at the corner of Broadway and
The November 16, 1909 issue of the Chicago Tribune announced the
establishment of a Chicago branch:
“The Jones Taximeter company, Chicago; capital, $20,500; manufacturing
and dealing in taxicabs and other vehicles, and instruments connected
therewith; incorporators, A. R. Hulbert, Henry W. Wales, Sidney S. Gorham.”
The March 27, 1910 NY Times announced that Jones and the Franco-American
Taximeter Companies were being consolidated as the American Taximeter
Company. For the next decade American Taximeter dominated the market,
however a competitor, the Ohmer Fare Register Co., of Dayton, Ohio
introduced a printing taximeter in 1915 which by the early twenties had
become so popular that Ohmer was able to acquire the chief competitor,
American, in 1924.
In early 1910 Shaw organized the Walden W. Shaw Auto Livery Co of St.
Louis, a totally separate firm not included in the Maine reorganization.
Shaw’s St. Louis operations commenced on February 1, 1910 as evidenced by
the sign in the background of a photograph of one of the firm’s French-style
Jewell-Keeton (Croxton-Keeton) landaulet taxicabs pictured to the left.
Hertz continued to place small items of interest in the automobile trades
and motoring columns of the nation’s papers. The following tidbit was
published by a number of papers on April 5, 1912:
“WANTED: 20 WOMEN AS TAXICAB DRIVERS
“CHICAGO, April 2.—The Walden Shaw company, a taxicab company, announced
that it will add to its staff twenty women drivers as soon as that number
can pass the required city examination. John Hertz, manager of the Shaw
concern, expressed confidence that the innovation will eliminate many of the
objections to the man-driven cars.
"Among these are:
Impertinence to customers.
Overcharging for their own benefit
Recklessness and fast driving.
Inattention to the company's business."
By early 1912 Shaw’s Michigan Ave., facility became too small to handle
the firm’s expanding livery business, so they relocated to larger facilities
located at 1912-1914 Grand Ave. and the vacated site was leased to the
Chicago Lozier distributor as recorded by the April 25, 1912 issue of the
“Lozier Leases New Building—The Lozier Motor Car Company, Detroit, Mich.,
has leased from Walden W. Shaw the two-story building in process of
construction on the west side of Michigan avenue for a term of 10 years.”
Although Hertz would take credit for reducing the fares
of Chicago’s taxicabs in 1915, just two years previous he had vigorously
lobbied to raise them.
In 1913, George Gazely, manager of the Hotel LaSalle
had been warned by Hertz that if the fares weren’t increased, the Walden W.
Shaw Livery Co. would have no choice other than to go out of business. In a
conversation with Charles H. Herman, the author of “Recollections of Life &
Doings in Chicago from the Haymarket Riot to the end of World War I, by An
Old Timer”, Gazely stated:
“Mr. Hermann, the Walden-Shaw Company has been
furnishing the hotel with good cab service. It would be a blow to us to lose
that service, and it looks like we are going to lose it. John Hertz came to
me and said that they were operating at a loss, and must throw up the sponge
unless they can get the City Council to permit them to raise their rates. He
said that he believes that the Council will act favorably, but that the
mayor will veto such an ordinance. Hertz would like to see you about that
matter this morning, and has asked me to arrange for an appointment with
you. I hope you will be good enough to see him and listen to what he has to
As the owner of Chicago’s famous Chapin and Gore's
Saloon and Distillers, Hermann was one of Chicago’s most well-connected
businessmen. He replied:
“Gazely, the mayor doesn't ask advice from
the likes of me on matters of that nature. I can't promise to be of any
help, but if Mr. Hertz, whom I don't know, wants to come here, I'll be glad
to talk with him.”
“That's all I want, and I'll thank you if
you'll listen to what Hertz has to say, and if you can be of help in that
matter, it will surely mean much to the Hotel LaSalle.”
Hermann recalled that it seemed to him that Hertz must
have been waiting nearby for a reply as within thirty minutes he was in
Hermann’s office at the Chapin & Gore Saloon.
Hertz informed him that Chicago was not yet taxicab
minded as in other cities like London, Paris, and New York, taxicabs could
be hailed anywhere on the street when empty and would pick up fares. Hertz
"In Chicago, a party will engage one of our cabs to
take them to South Shore Country Club, the Edgewater Beach Hotel, or some
other distant point and return without picking up a passenger. That
condition is what broke our predecessors. We have been operating at a loss,
and I'm telling you confidentially that we can't go any further unless we
can get an increase in rates to stay in effect until such time as our cabs
can get passengers on their return trips. When that condition prevails, we
will voluntarily reduce our rates. If the City Council does not enact an
ordinance to allow us to make a fair increase in our rates, we are through,
and Chicago will again be without a taxicab service."
Hermann assured Hertz that he agreed with him, and
sincerely hoped that he would succeed in getting what he was after, but
couldn't see where he could be of any help in the matter. To that Hertz
"Mr. Hermann, I have taken this matter up with several
aldermen, and I feel quite certain that we can succeed in getting such an
ordinance passed, but all seem to think that Mayor Harrison will veto it, so
we cannot get anywhere unless we have the mayor's assurance that he will
sign such a bill. Now, I am wondering if you could see your way clear to
explain our troubles to the mayor and try to obtain that assurance from
Hermann advised Hertz he didn't believe that he could
be of much help to him, but agreed to talk to the Mayor at their next
luncheon. At the meeting Hermann asked Harrison if he would have preferred
to carry his suitcase and walk home or pay a dollar and a quarter for a
taxicab. His reply was, "What are you driving at?"
Hermann explained the situation, telling him about
previous taxicab concerns going broke, all the while hitting home Hertz’
assertion that unless the rates were raised the Walden-Shaw Company would
fold. Hermann told him:
"That will not only make you walk from the station to
your home, but it will be a 'knock' to Chicago as hotel guests will have no
way of obtaining up-to-date transportation which should be available in a
big city like Chicago."
The Mayor agreed that, as a temporary remedy, he might
not be against such an ordinance, but he needed more specifics pertaining to
the facts and figures. Hermann explained that the matter was being
investigated by a committee of the Chicago Association of Commerce, of which
he was the chair.
The fare committee met with representatives of
Chicago’s taxicab operator, obtaining a detailed report of their
investments, expenses, and complete, detailed operating costs. They compared
them with reports from the cities of London, Paris, and New York to see how
their system could be implemented in Chicago.
The Commerce Association’s fare committee presented its
findings to Mayor Harrison on November 11, 1913, after which it was
presented to the City Council, who passed it, after which Harrison signed it
Although Hertz claimed it was his personal
investigation of the Parisian taxicab industry that led to the establishment
of the Yellow Cab Co., in fact the work had already been done for him by the
Chicago Association of Commerce’s study.
As the study was just one of the factors that
contributed to the birth of the Yellow Cab Co. we can turn to Hertz’ account
of the story as told to B.C. Forbes in 1924-25.
As manager of the Shaw Livery operation Hertz was
responsible for dealing with the firm’s increasing labors problems which
were compounded by periodic union slowdowns and walkouts that resulted from
the initial 1909 strike. The resulting stress took a toll on Hertz’ health
and his personal physician recommended he take some time off, so in late
1913, early 1914, Hertz went to Europe for a few months of rest and
relaxation during which he made his study of the profitable Parisian cab
At the time a short taxi ride in a Paris’ cab could be
had for as little as ten cents, a small fraction of the cost of a
corresponding ride in one of his own taxicabs. Hertz became convinced that
he could increase the firm’s profits by applying many of the principles
utilized by the French back in Chicago.
Upon his return to the States, Hertz slowly began
implementing a number of evolutionary changes all aimed at improving
service, increasing volume and reducing costs. The all-black Parisian cabs
were of a uniform color and appearance, allowing them to be easily
recognized by a potential customer.
In May 1909, well-known Manhattan automobile dealers,
Wycoff, Church & Partridge, had placed a fleet of orange-yellow colored
Rockwell taxicabs on the streets of Manhattan. Although Hertz is often
credited with inventing the Yellow Cab, a claim perpetuated by B.C. Forbes
who states that Hertz “commissioned a local university to ascertain
scientifically which color would stand out strongest at a distance”, he was
certainly not the first taxicab operator to use that color and the
university study that Forbes refers to has yet to be discovered.
Although it is unknown if any yellow-painted cabs were
in use in Chicago prior to the debut of Hertz’ Yellow Cabs, it’s doubtful
Hertz was unaware of the hundreds of yellow cabs crowding the streets of
Manhattan and other Eastern cities at the time.
Aside from their uniform color, another distinctive feature of the
Parisian cabs was their efficient use of space. They were small and
purpose-built, providing barely enough room for a small 4-cylinder engine, a
driver and his fare of no more than four passengers.
At that time Shaw’s livery consisted of large and cumbersome 6-cylinder
American landaulet-style taxis that could hold anywhere from 5 to 7
passengers, with plenty of room to spare. Smaller, lighter taxicabs would
result in increased profits due to their lower initial cost and
substantially reduced fuel and maintenance expenditures. However, the
current crop of American mid-sized vehicles weren’t up to the task, so a
specially designed, heavy-duty purpose-built taxicab would have to be built.
The smartly uniformed Parisian cabbies were also far more courteous than
their American counterparts, a situation that Hertz also sought to rectify.
He vowed to employ only the finest grade of men, specifically trained as
courteous, efficient salesmen of the firm’s taxicab service. In return,
Hertz would reward their service with respect, high wages, profit sharing
and complimentary healthcare.
He also instituted an end to paying concessions to hotels, department
stores, music halls and railroads for the privilege of monopolizing their
cab stands. He reasoned that by offering dramatically better service at
substantially lower prices, people would be willing to walk around the block
to find one of his easily identifiable Yellow Cabs.
After months of preparation the first of Hertz’ specially designed
taxicabs debuted on December 25, 1914, and after weeks of testing, limited
production of the vehicle commenced at the former City Motor Cab Co. factory
at 310 East Huron St., Chicago. Hertz and Shaw helped raise the $50,000 in
cash used to capitalize the operation which was organized in early August as
the Yellow Cab Company. The firm’s early taxis were powered by a 4-cylinder
Continental engine equipped with a purpose-built taxicab body supplied by
the Racine Body Co., of Racine, Wisconsin.
Yellow Cab kept one of the firm’s very first taxicabs for the next two
decades, putting the 17-year-old 600,000 mile vehicle on display at the
1933-34 Century of Progress Exposition to showcase the strength and
longevity of its products.
Finished cabs were kept in storage until August 2, 1915 when the firm’s
initial fleet of 40 Yellow Cabs hit the streets. Hertz and his anxious
investors sat back and waited to see if his ambitious scheme would yield the
hoped-for results. The Yellow Cab was a great success and the by early 1916
eighty hands were busy turning out an average of 1 cab per day in the firm’s
Huron St. shops.
The firm’s taxis were in such high demand that Hertz spearheaded a
reorganization and recapitalization of the entire operation in the fall of
1916. The firm’s prospectus was included in the 1917 issue of Burnham's
Manual of Chicago Securities as follows:
“WALDEN W. SHAW CORPORATION.
“Incorporated in New York, Oct. 30, 1916, to acquire, and now owns, the
entire capital stocks of the Walden W. Shaw Livery Co. and the Yellow Cab
Co., both of Chicago. The Walden W. Shaw Livery Co., owners and operators of
125 seven-passenger limousines, has been successfully engaged in the
automobile livery business for the past nine years, its revenue consisting
in large part of contract business with hotels, clubs, etc., and during the
past two years it has also been engaged in the building of automobiles for
itself, the Yellow Cab Co. and companies of like character in other large
cities; this branch of the business has developed rapidly and is proving a
profitable venture; the company now has unfilled orders for a large number
of these vehicles. The Yellow Cab Co., owning and operating 270 smaller type
automobiles, was organized in August, 1915, to furnish popular-priced
taxicab service, and Its earnings have shown a steady growth. It is planned
to build and put in operation an additional 25 of the larger cars and 700
additional Yellow cabs. The control and management of the business is to
continue as before the consolidation. The employees of the Yellow Cab Co.
have shared to the extent of approximately 20% of the profits since the
organization of that company. The employees are said to have subscribed to
$140,000 of the new preferred stock and are owners of a considerable amount
of the common stock.
“Capital.—Authorized and issued, $900,000 7% Cum. Pfd. (Par $100) and
40,000 shares of Common stock of no specified par value. The company has no
“Dividends.—Pfd.: 7% per annum, payable Feb., May, Aug. and Nov. 1,
initial payment to be made Feb. 1, 1917, 1%%. Common: None to date.
“Earnings—Combined net earnings of acquired companies, including the
manufacturing department, during the first nine months of 1916 were
$302,653, after allowance for depreciation of cars and equipment, in
addition to the actual expenditures for maintenance. The depreciation
allowance has been computed at 2c per mile for both companies, which for the
nine months is equivalent to a rate of 20% per annum on the replacement
value of the larger cars and equipment and at a rate of 33%% on the
replacement value of the Yellow cabs and equipment. Net tangible assets as
of Oct. 31, 1916, $1,052,135.
“Officers.—Pres., Walden W. Shaw; V. P. and Gen. Mgr., John Hertz; V. P.,
John Towne; Sec. and Treas., John Borden.
“Directors.—Walden W. Shaw, John Hertz, John Towne, Benjamin V. Becker,
Edward D'Ancona, F. B. Hitchcock, Richard P. Lydon, M. S. Rosenwald.
“Office, Wabash Ave. and 11th St., Chicago.”
The success of the Yellow Taxicab, did not go unnoticed by other
operators and orders for the vehicle started pouring into the Yellow Cab
Manufacturing Co. Increased profits were also responsible for the
acquisition of the Black and White Cab Co. by the Yellow Cab Co., the taxi
operating arm of the Shaw organization.
The 1918 issue Burnham's Manual of Chicago Securities reveals how much
the firm had expanded during the proceeding 12 months and provides a
breakdown of the firm’s assets, earnings and expenses:
“Incorporated in New York, Oct. 30, 1916, to acquire, and now owns, the
entire capital stocks of the Walden W. Shaw Livery Co. and the Yellow Cab
Co., both of Chicago. The Walden W. Shaw Livery Co., owners and operators of
a large number of seven-passenger limousines, has been successfully engaged
in the automobile livery business for the past nine years, its revenue
consisting in large part of contract business with hotels, clubs, etc., and
during the past few years it has also been engaged in the building of
automobiles for itself, the Yellow Cab Co. and companies of like character
in other large cities, including New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Kansas
City; this branch of the business has developed rapidly and has proven a
profitable venture. The Yellow Cab Co., owning and operating 400 smaller
type automobiles, was organized in August, 1915, to furnish popular-priced
taxicab service, and its earnings have shown a steady growth. Since the
consolidation the Black and White Cab Co. was acquired and a large number of
new cars have been built and are now in operation. Employees of the company
own a considerable amount of the stock, besides participating in the
profits. The Parmelee Taxicab service was taken over in July, 1917. The new
addition to the manufacturing plant, at Huron St. and Fairbank Court,
Chicago, makes the plant the largest in America for the production of
taxicabs and trucks.”
“Capital.—Authorized, $900,000 1% Cum. Pfd. (Par $100) and 40,000 shares
of Common stock of no par value. Outstanding, $810,000 Pfd. and 40,000
shares of Common. $90,000 of the Preferred stock was retired in 1917. The
company has no bonded debt.
“The preferred stock has preference as to assets and dividends and is
callable during the year 1918 at 102 and divs., and at a price increasing
$1.00 per share each year thereafter until 1926; if not all retired by 1926,
then and thereafter the stock is redeemable at 115 and divs. The company is
required to set aside annually from the surplus or net profits, after
payment of the preferred divs., an amount sufficient to retire $90,000 Pfd.
stock before any divs. may be paid on the common stock, and before dividends
of over $6 per share in any year are paid on the common stock, an additional
$50,000 shall be set aside during that year to retire the preferred stock.
No bonds or securities having priority to the Pfd. stock may be issued, nor
the Pfd. increased, without consent of 75% of Pfd. stock outstanding.
“Dividends.—Pfd.: 7% per annum, payable Jan., Apr., July and Oct. 1, from
Apl. 1, 1917, to date; initial dividend, 14% paid Jan. 1, 1917, for period
Nov. 1, 1916, to Jan. 1, 1917. Common: $5.00 per share per annum, Feb., May,
Aug. and Nov. 15, from May 15, 1917, to date.
“Earnings (Including Acquired Companies.)
9 Months Ended Sept. 30
|Less Refunds, etc
|Net from Ops
|Expenses (reorg. of W.W. Shaw Corp)
|Balance Applicable to Dividends
|Divds. on Preferred Stock
“The Profits shown are after making liberal provision for maintenance,
depreciation and claims.
“Balance Sheet.—Feb. 28, 1918:
|Assets Fiscal 1917:
|Cabs and Equipment
|Buildings, Improvements, etc
|Machinery, Tools, etc
|Privileges and Franchises
|Materials and Supplies
|Rent Guarantee, etc
|Pref. Stock redeemed in treasury
|Liabilities Fiscal 1917:
|Adv. Pymnts on cabs to be mfrd
|Preferred Stock divds. accrued
|Reserve for Damages, etc
|Reserve for Maintenance
|Net worth of assets applicable to
|40,000 shares of Common Stock
“Officers.—Pres., Walden W. Shaw; V. P. and Gen. Mgr., John Hertz; V. P.,
John Towne; Sec. and Treas., John Borden.
“Directors.—Walden W. Shaw, John Hertz, John Towne, Benjamin V. Becker,
Edward D'Ancona, F. B, Hitchcock, Richard P. Lydon, M. S. Rosenwald. Office,
Wabash Ave. and 11th St., Chicago. Transfer Agent.—First Trust & Savings
The phenomenal popularity and profitability of Hertz’ Yellow Taxis did
not escape the notice of taxicab operators in other cities and Hertz soon
began providing vehicles and operating franchises to firms located across
the country. His planning was so thorough that of the hundreds of customers
and franchisees that were enrolled in the late teens and early twenties the
failure rate was less than 1%. Yellow Cab periodically sent out engineers
and accountants to large franchisees to help reduce operating costs and
improve their service.
At the time Hertz’ management team included Clinton T. Ziegler, sales
manager and assistant engineer; Rudolph D. Wolff, mechanical efficiency
engineer; and William F. Dick chief draftsman and body engineer.
Even though the firm enjoyed great financial success, they continued to
be plagued by periodic strikes in their hometown of Chicago as evidenced by
an item in the November 1918 issue of the Official Magazine of the
International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Stablemen, and Helpers
“The following telegram was received this morning, which explains itself:
“Chicago, Ill., October 28, 1918. D. J. Tobin, 222 E. Michigan St.,
Following telegram sent to President Wilson, Secretary of War Baker and
Secretary of Labor Wilson:
“‘Teamsters Joint Council No. 25 of Chicago, affiliated with the American
Federation of Labor, representing 20,000 union teamsters and chauffeurs of
this city, wishes to enter protest issuance of contracts by the War
Department to the notorious scab concern of Walden W. Shaw Corporation of
Chicago, for taxicab service for officers and others connected with the War
Department throughout the United States. The concern has had a strike of
chauffeurs, who are affiliated with this council, on for some time past.
Appreciating a favorably reply.’
“Kindly follow up same by entering protest as soon as possible from
International Union to above named parties.
“T. F. NEARY, Secretary-Treasurer Local No. 727.”
In 1918 the Walden W. Shaw Auto Livery Co. ceased operating taxicabs
altogether, confining its activities entirely to manufacturing taxicabs. It
was subsequently renamed the Yellow Cab Manufacturing Co. on June 29, 1920.
Most of Yellow Cab’s competitors were out of business by mid-1920, with
their only serious competition being the Checker Cab Company, a small firm
founded in 1919 by an Oak Park, Illinois cabbie named Frank Dilger. Checker
differed from Yellow in that it was an association of independent
owner-operators operating under a single livery, easily identified by their
distinctive green and cream paint scheme and logo.
By mid 1920 Checker’s operations were overseen by Michael M. Sokoll (aka
Mike Sokol), a competent street-wise manager who proved successful in
uniting the city’s remaining independents into the Checker fold.
Hertz saw Checker as a threat and took steps to insure that life was made
difficult for the firm. He enjoyed close ties to the administration of Mayor
William H. Thompson, and ordinances were passed by the Chicago city council
which served to benefit Yellow Cab. The most helpful being an amendment to
the 1895 Cab Stand Ordinance that required cabbies to obtain a city-issued
permit before they were allowed to work out of a municipal cab stand.
Coincidentally, Parmelee’s Charles A. McCullough was also a good friend
of Mayor Thompson.
The Yellow Cab story is continued
on page 2
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