the taxi replaces the horse -- 7/26/19

Today's selection -- from The Plaza by Julie Satow. The taxicab replaces the horse and carriage:

"The Plaza [Hotel's 1907] grand opening was celebrated with lavish abandon, the violence that undergirded the building's construction as concealed behind its lustrous white facade as the ironworkers' steel beams. There was much to celebrate, as the Plaza was the most expensive hotel in the city's history, its looming eighteen stories dominating the surrounding skyline. Its arrival was so monumental that it ushered in new behaviors that would leave their mark on New York for generations.

"The Plaza's opening, for instance, coincided with the debut of one of the city's most enduring symbols, the modern taxicab. On that first day, those in the crowd who ventured to the Fifth Avenue side of the hotel discovered a fleet of twenty-five bright red cars. These vehicles, imported from France, featured gray interiors with long bench seats and two facing single seats that could be turned up when not in use. The drivers were decked out in matching uniforms made of a similar gray-blue as the interiors. To generate publicity and entice wealthy fans on this first day of business, [rides in] these prototypes for today's ubiquitous yellow cabs were being offered free of charge to Plaza guests.

The first Plaza Hotel opens on October 1st

"In 1907, cars were still novelties -- it would be thirteen more years before the first traffic light graced Fifth Avenue. New Yorkers who didn't own carriages often depended on two-wheeled hansom cabs to get around town. But these new taximeter cars, with their decidedly faster pace and clearly marked odometers -- charging 30 cents for the first half mile and 10 cents for every quarter of a mile after -- quickly replaced horse-drawn hansom cabs as popular trans­port. 'The hansom cabbies were curious at first' about the cars, remembered Tom Clifford, a Plaza doorman who was there that first day, 'but it was plain to see that trouble was coming.'

"In only a few short years, the calls of 'Cab, cab, cab!' from han­som drivers perched high upon their platforms were replaced with insistent honking and belching from the new red cars. In 1912, when a New York Times reporter stood outside the Times Square newsroom to count traffic, he found that of the forty-eight vehicles that passed by, just five were driven by horses, while nearly one-­quarter were taxis. Ironically, today the only place one can find horse-drawn cabs is directly across from the Plaza, where the New York City taxis that marked their death knell were first introduced."



Julie Satow


The Plaza


Hachette Book Group


Copyright 2019 by Julie Satow
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