Weatherford Democrat

Online Only

October 25, 2013

Why are there so many yellow taxis in the world?

In her new book, "ROY G. BIV: An Exceedingly Surprising Book About Color," Jude Stewart startles us into really seeing color again with interesting anecdotes about the hues that surround us.

       

Bumblebee-bright, a yellow taxicab blurs across Times Square: an instantly recognizable and infinitely reproduced symbol of New York City. But New York cab companies weren't the first to paint their vehicles the now iconic yellow, a popular taxi color in many parts of the country and the world.

When businessman Harry N. Allen launched the New York Taxicab Company in 1907, introducing the city's first fleet of gasoline-powered cabs, his imported French vehicles were equipped with "taximeters" to charge fees based on mileage, manned by drivers dressed like West Point cadets - and originally painted red and green.

In 1915, Chicago entrepreneur John Hertz (of future rental-car-company fame) opened the first Yellow Cab Company in his city. To unify his fleet, Hertz had commissioned a local university study to "scientifically ascertain which color would stand out strongest at a distance," per his biographer - and yellow won. (Color researchers still agree that yellow is generally the most visible color, though some have suggested that it's chartreuse that the eye most easily detects.)

But this often-told 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 as early as 1909, and he went on to incorporate the Yellow Taxicab Co. in NYC in 1912. If Hertz chose yellow for scientific reasons, legend has it that Rockwell was merely appeasing his wife Nettie, who preferred the color.

The wild popularity of gasoline-powered taxicabs lured dozens of competitors into the industry, including Morris Markin's Checker Taxi, which was based in Chicago, and later Kalamazoo, but whose vehicles were ubiquitous nationwide.

Like any madly growing business sector, the taxicab biz was rife with abuses - and the Great Depression only worsened infighting among cabbies desperate for work. The Haas Act of 1937 tried to clean up New York's taxicab industry by regulating officially licensed cabs under a medallion system. The Haas Act didn't mandate a specific color of taxicab, but standardizing the cabs' look to reflect more standardized regulation made sense. With a consistent color and make, "official" taxicabs signal to wary riders that they're duly regulated by city government.

The logic of visual standardization became fully entrenched with a 1967 ruling that all "official" New York taxicabs be painted yellow - specifically "Dupont M6284 or its equivalent," according to Allan Fromberg of the New York Taxi & Limousine Commission. Any visual swerve therefore indicates either an unlicensed vehicle or an alternate taxicab system.

             

 

1
Text Only
Online Only
  • To sleep well, you may need to adjust what you eat and when

    Sleep.  Oh, to sleep.  A good night's sleep is often a struggle for more than half of American adults.  And for occasional insomnia, there are good reasons to avoid using medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

    April 16, 2014

  • Doctors to rate cost effectiveness of expensive cancer drugs

    The world's largest organization of cancer doctors plans to rate the cost effectiveness of expensive oncology drugs, and will urge physicians to use the ratings to discuss the costs with their patients.

    April 16, 2014

  • portraitoflotte.jpg VIDEO: From infant to teen in four minutes

    Dutch filmmaker Frans Hofmeester’s time lapse video of his daughter, Lotte — created by filming her every week from her birth until she turned 14 — has become a viral sensation.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 12.51.22 PM.png VIDEO: Toddler climbs into vending machine

    A child is safe after climbing into and getting stuck inside a claw crane machine at a Lincoln, Neb., bowling alley Monday.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Victimized by the 'marriage penalty'

    In a few short months, I'll pass the milestone that every little girl dreams of: the day she swears - before family and God, in sickness and in health, all in the name of love - that she's willing to pay a much higher tax rate.

    April 15, 2014

  • E-Cigarettes target youth with festivals, lawmakers say

    The findings, in a survey released Monday by members of Congress, should prod U.S. regulators to curb the industry, the lawmakers said. While e-cigarettes currently are unregulated, the Food and Drug Administration is working on a plan that would extend its tobacco oversight to the products.

    April 15, 2014

  • bomb1 VIDEO: A year after marathon bombing, Boston remains strong

    The City of Boston came together Tuesday to honor those who were injured and lost their lives at the Boston Marathon on the one-year anniversary of the bombing. While the day was sure to be emotional, those affected by last year's race are showing they won't let the tragedy keep them down.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 4.02.29 PM.png VIDEO: Nebraska prom mishap goes viral

    A group of 22 high school students from Pierce, Neb., all decked out in prom finery, took an unplanned dip in a four-foot-deep pond when the bridge they were posing on for pictures gave way. Photos from the incident have gone viral on social media.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Stepping forward: The real Colbert

    Letterman changed the late-night TV game between his run on NBC's "Late Night" and starting the "Late Show" franchise in 1993. And while it's tough to replace a pop-culture icon, Colbert, in terms of pedigree and sense of humor, makes the most sense.

    April 12, 2014

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Obama's equal pay exaggeration leads us all into danger

    The president's claims of national shame over gender-based pay inequity spring from distorted calculations, as well as some convenient political math.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo

Must Read
Top News
House Ads
AP Video
Disbanding Muslim Surveillance Draws Praise Hundreds Missing After South Korean Ferry Sinks Passengers Abuzz After Plane Hits Swarm of Bees Boston Bomb Scare Defendant Appears in Court Pistorius Trial: Adjourned Until May 5 Diaz Gets Physical for New Comedy Raw: Ferry Sinks Off South Korean Coast Town, Victims Remember Texas Blast Freeze Leaves Florida Panhandle With Dead Trees At Boston Marathon, a Chance to Finally Finish Are School Dress Codes Too Strict? Raw: Fatal Ferry Boat Accident Suspicious Bags Found Near Marathon Finish Line Boston Marks the 1st Anniversary of Bombing NYPD Ends Muslim Surveillance Program 8-year-old Boy Gets His Wish: Fly Like Iron Man Sex Offenders Arrested in Slayings of CA Women India's Transgenders Celebrate Historic Ruling Tributes Mark Boston Bombing Anniversary Raw: Kan. Shooting Suspect Faces Judge