The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Community News Network

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
Community News Network
  • The Simpsons still going strong

    The groundbreaking animation first hit the air Dec. 17, 1989, but the family first appeared on television in "The Tracey Ullman Show" short "Good Night" on April 19, 1987.

    August 21, 2014

  • Police chief resigns over racial slur repost to Facebook

    A repost on his personal Facebook page of a racially-charged comment by the original poster of a comedy video has forced the police chief of an Oklahoma city to resign his office.

    August 21, 2014

  • Does Twitter need a censor?

    Twitter decided last year to make images more prominent on its site. Now, the social network is finding itself caught between being an open forum and patrolling for inappropriate content.

    August 21, 2014

  • sleepchart.jpg America’s sleep-deprived cities

    Americans might run on sleep, but those living in the country's largest cities don't appear to run on much.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Who should pay for your kids ACT?

    Thirteen states paid for 11th-grade students in all public high schools to take the ACT college admission test this year, with several more planning to join them in 2015.

    August 20, 2014

  • Pets.jpg Why do people look like their pets?

    As much as we might quibble over the virtues and vices of Canis domesticus, however, and over whether human nature is any better or worse than dog nature, even dog fanciers don't usually want to look like a dog.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ice bucket challenge trending up

    Internet trends are a dime a dozen these days. Everything from Tebowing to planking to the cinnamon challenge can cause a wave of social media activity that can last for weeks before fizzling out.

    August 19, 2014

  • Africa goes medieval in its fight against Ebola

    As the Ebola epidemic claims new victims at an ever-increasing rate, African governments in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have instituted a "cordon sanitaire," deploying troops to forcibly isolate the inhabitants in an area containing most of the cases.

    August 18, 2014

  • Democrat? Republican? There's an app for that

    If you're a Republican, you might want to think twice before buying Lipton Iced Tea, and forget about Starbucks coffee. If you're a Democrat, put down that Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, and throw away the cylinder of Quaker Oats in your pantry.

    August 18, 2014

  • Five myths about presidential vacations

    In the nuclear age, presidents may have only minutes to make a decision that could affect the entire world. They don't so much leave the White House as they take a miniature version of it with them wherever they go.

    August 15, 2014

E-edition
AP Video
Raw: Rescue Efforts Suspended at Japan Landslide Raw: Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in Malaysia Raw: Smaller Marches in Ferguson Marathon Suspect's Friend Pleads Guilty Attorney: Utah Eatery Had Other Chemical Burn Farm Resurgence Grows With Younger Crowd Microbrewery Chooses Special Can for Its Beer Ky. Firefighters Hurt in Ice Bucket Challenge Federal Investigation Will Look at Use of Force Community Deals With Michael Brown Aftermath US: We Do Not Pay Ransom to Terrorists Ferguson Teachers Training to Deal With Trauma Jon Hamm on the Unrest in Ferguson Tit for Tat? McDonald's Shuttered in Moscow Life on the Professional Video Game Circuit TX Gov Perry in Washington: 'Confident' in Case Hospital Releases Two Missionaries Who Had Ebola Ramen Health Risks: The Dark Side of the Noodle NYC Doctor-in-chief Seeks Community Approach Indonesian Police Fire Tear Gas at Protesters
NDN Video
Rapper Almost Walks Off CNN Over Ferguson Coverage Whoa! Jimmy Fallon Shaves Jared Leto's Beard Amazing Encounter With Sea Otter Caught on Video 2 American Ebola Patients Released From Hospital VIDEO: Goliath Grouper eats shark in one bite US Mission to Rescue Hostages in Syria Failed Reggie Jackson's ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Motorcyclist Sticks Landing Sicilian hilltop homes on sale for one euro Are Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon Breaking Up? Joel McHale Interviews Chelsea This 'Breaking Bad' Reunion is the Most Hilarious Thing You'll See All Day! President Obama talks about who James Foley was Nicki Minaj Unleashes Her 'Anaconda' On the World Watch Helicopter Perform Aerial Ballet Can Buckeyes fill Miller's void? Victoria's Secret Models Prove They're in Fighting Shape How Brian Hoyer Stacks Up With Johnny Manziel Taylor Swift Reveals New Album 1989 is Full-On Pop Crews rescue elderly woman trapped inside flooded minivan
Must Read