Lights and reflections on London cabs at night. Image supplied by FreeFoto.com

World of Taxis - Culture and History

Gaito Gazdanov's Paris
Gaito Gazdanov (in the photo at left, 1930s) was a Russian emigre who drove a taxi in Paris from 1928 to 1952. During that time, he wrote seven of his nine novels.

Photo of a taxi in 1930s Paris

Gazdanov's novel Nochnye dorogi (Night Roads) draws heavily on his life as a taxi driver. Originally titled Nochnaia doroga (Night Road) it was serialized in the emigre journal Sovremennye zapiski in 1939-1940. It did not appear as a book until 1952.

The novel was translated to French by Elena Balzanno (Chemins Nocturnes: Viviane Hamy, 1991). An English translation is now available.

Click here for photos and selections translated to English from French by Norman Beattie.

Photo of Gaito Gazdanov

Many thanks to Justin Doherty of Trinity College, Dublin for his recent translation of Gazdanov's Night Roads from Russian to English. Gazdanov conveys his readers to 1930s Paris and introduces us to the city's late night characters. Night Roads is a great read, and is available from Northwestern University Press.

Featured items

Book cover
Nobody's Angel by taxi driver Jack Clark


UK and Europe

NTA logo

The different sections of the NTA logo represent the different nations
that the association represents: top left is the English National
Flower; top right is the Irish emblem of the shamrock; bottom left
is the Scottish Thistle; and bottom right is the Welsh leek.
The association's motto "ubique" means "everywhere."

Line drawing of author James Joyce
June 16 is Bloomsday. Spend a few minutes getting up to speed on the theme of cabs and cab drivers in "Ulysses" by James Joyce. This is another delightful collection of images and text from Norm Beattie. He captures the spirit of June 16, 1904 when Joyce's character Leopold Bloom took his long walk through the city of Dublin in Ireland.
A 1920s cab with a large bag on top for coal gas fuel
A 1920s coal-gas powered taxicab operated by John Lee Automobile Engineers in Keighley, England. The bag atop the vehicle stored sufficient fuel for 15 miles of driving. Fast forward to 2007...according to an article in The Conservative, more than 1000 taxicabs in the Chinese city of Fuxin have switched from gasoline to compressed coal-based methane (CBM) fuel.
Photo of London cabs, copyright by FreeFoto.com
-Photo supplied by FreeFoto.com
The colorful London "black cabs" of today

Photo of a Paris horse cab and early taximeter
- From a postcard, date unknown
A Paris horse cab driver enjoying a glass of his favorite beverage. Note the early taximeter.

Postcard illustration of a male passenger and a lady horse cab driver
A male passenger makes a ribald suggestion to the lady horse cab driver.
Postcard from the Femmes Cocher collection gathered by Norman Beattie.
Illustration of a book cover showing a taxi driver and a nude woman
A horse drawn hansom cab with the driver riding high up in the rear of the carriage A hansom cab on location for the TV movie "Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking" at Somerset House in London. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
Classic Volvo taxicab
Classic Volvo Duett taxicab
Illustration from Punch magazine
Punch magazine illustration from October 11, 1879


Old-time photo of a Star Cab driver One of the 1920s Diamond Cab Staff photos gathered by Norm Beattie

Canada

Photo of a taxi driver badge with the number seven
Taxi driver's badge from Blind River, Ontario. Photo courtesy of Norman Beattie.
Horse cab in Ottawa

The mysterious death of Ottawa hackman Alfred Bonenfant in 1908 turned out to be accidental. Yet the story of the incident and the inquest that followed shine a light on the horse taxi trade just prior to its eclipse by automobiles. This is another excellent collection of text and photos by Canadian taxi historian Norman Beattie.

Ad for Diamond taxi service, 1920s

Taxi history from the 1870s to 1960s is illustrated with more than 100 photos. Text by Norman Beattie chronicles the transition from small horse-drawn liveries operating out of stables to fleets of Cadillacs, Nashs, Packards and Studebakers. Winnipeg Cab History is an enthralling read for taxi folk everywhere.

Papier-mache showing St. Fiacre in a garden with an angel hovering nearby. The angel has a taxi-like checkered design on her robes and wings.
- Papier-mache art courtesy of Kate Hodgson
Saint Fiacre is the patron of gardeners and taxicab drivers.


United States

Mug shot of bandit James Kane
James Kane came to a bad end after robbing a Chicago horse cab in 1908.
Text and historical photos recall The Cab Hold-up Affair by Norman Beattie.
Photo of a book cover for The American Taxi - A Century of Service
The American Taxi - A Century of Service, published by Iconographics.
title page logo from Hacking New York
Title page logo from the 1930 book Hacking New York by Robert Hazard.
Right click the image to download the 45 MB full-length novel.