Winnipeg Cab History / 26: Street Cabs vs Livery Cabs (1)
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This photo of the official launch of the Winnipeg Electric Street Railway contains a small element of drama. The drivers of two cabs on the City Hall Stand can be seen eyeing their new transportation rival, as is the driver of the passing hotel omnibus.


5 Sept. 1892. Opening of Winnipeg Electric Street Railway. Archives Manitoba, Transportation -- Streetcar 19 (Negatives ON152, N7600, N7601).

Winnipeg Cab History / 26

Street Cabs vs Livery Cabs (1)

Street cabs and street cab drivers started off with a bad reputation that only got worse during the 1890s. There are several reasons for this, one being that the stereotype of the dishonest cab driver was already a couple of centuries old in England, France and other European countries.

Class divisions, exacerbated by fear and suspicion, fed the stereotype. Middle class cab riders accustomed to dealing with respectful servants and obedient employees did not enjoy being at the mercy of unsupervised cab drivers who were aware of their power and willing to exercise their independence.

The quality of the street cabs themselves no doubt contributed to their bad reputation. Street cabs, almost by definition, were the bottom rung of the cab business. Livery stable owners would have used their older carriages for street work and most individual owner-operators would have upgraded their vehicles, it at all, with castoffs from livery stables or other second-hand dealers.

Of course, there were enough bad characters to lend credence to the disreputable stereotype. On one memorable evening in 1897 four Winnipeg street cab drivers, in separate incidents, were charged with drunkenness, assault and "furious driving" (i.e., driving a horse at a gallop in defiance of the speed limit).


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