Schodl, Max (1834-1921)

Schodl, Max 1

Schodl was noted for his absentmindedness. "Where to?" asked the driver of a horse-cab that the painter had hailed. Schodl reflected. "Number six," he said. "I'll tell you the street later on." See also:

Huxley, Thomas Henry 1

Sedan Chairs

Sedan Chairs 1

In 1634, Sir Sanders Duncan obtained a monopoly on the rental of "hackney chairs" for fourteen years and "sprang some forty or fifty specimens upon a willing and even eager public" (Walsh). The first sedan chair had appeared in England as early as 1581 but it had not caught on as a mode of transport. In fact, in the early 1600's when the Duke of Buckingham began to use one, he came under public censure for making human beings do the work of animals.

But by the time Sir Sanders Duncan introduced his chairs opinion had changed. Elaborate costumes and coiffures were now in fashion and the sedan chair offered the surest way of travelling through filthy streets without getting rained on, splattered with mud, or having a hair knocked out of place. You could not only travel from door to door in a sedan chair -- you could travel from indoors to indoors without setting foot outside.

Some people owned their own sedan chairs but hired chairmen to carry them as the need arose. There were also public chairs that waited on stands in the street just as hackney coaches did.

Chairs were available at any hour of the day or night. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu gossiped about a neighbouring lady and gentleman who escaped from a house fire in their nightclothes and had to take cramped refuge in a passing sedan chair. When Horace Walpole's house was broken into in the small hours of the morning, a couple of chairmen responded to the alarm and helped to capture the burglar.

In France during the reign of Louis XIII some sedans were hung between a pair of wheels, allowing them to be drawn along by one man in the style of a rickshaw. In England the two-man chair survived well into the 1800's, until it was gradually superseded by the cab. Charles Dickens includes an episode about a sedan chair in Pickwick Papers.

In Edinburgh, where streets were steep and narrow, sedans actually outnumbered carriages until after 1850. The sedans "were for the most part in the hands of Highlanders, whose picturesque costume and uncouth jargon were the admiration and amusement of all strangers, as their constitutional irritability was frequently the occasion of much wrangling and confusion at the doors of inns and theatres" (Walsh). Chairmen in England were not particularly deferential either: "Two of them, very drunk, carrying home the prim, terrified, and abstemious Mrs. Herbert, opened the top of the chair and told her indistinctly: 'Madam, you are so drunk, that if you do not sit still, it will be impossible to carry you'" (White).

The sedan chair also made its way to North America. Benjamin Franklin was still travelling by sedan chair as late as 1789.


Shaw, George Bernard (1856-1950)

Shaw, George Bernard 1

I recall how Nancy Astor forced a recalcitrant Bernard Shaw into signing a first edition which I was auctioning on behalf of disabled soldiers. Thank Heaven, it fetched very little, and I gave it to a taxi driver in New York just to hurt Shaw's ego. [Coote (1893-1979) was managing editor of the Daily Telegraph and Morning Post.]

Shor, Toots (died 1977)

Shor, Toots 1

Toots Shor, New York restaurateur, boarded a taxicab some months ago, and asked the driver, "Know of a decent restaurant? I'm a stranger here."

"Yes, sir," said the cabby. "One of the greatest eating places in this whole world is Toots Shor's on Fifty-second Street. I'll drive you straight there."

At the end of the journey Toots was so pleased that he slipped the cabby a ten-spot, saying, "Keep the change."

"T'anks," said the driver. "T'anks indeed, Mr. Shor!"

Smith, Alfred E. (1873-1944)

Smith, Alfred E. 1

During one of his terms as governor of New York, Smith was late for a broadcast he was due to make. He hailed a taxi to take him to the radio station, but the driver, who did not recognize the governor, refused to take him. He explained that he was in a hurry himself, anxious to be home in time to hear Governor Smith talk on the radio. Smith, flattered, held out a five-dollar bill and repeated his request. The driver's eyes lit up. "Hop in, mister," he said, "and to hell with the governor." The same story is told of Churchill, Winston 2.


Speed 1

A taxi was creeping slowly through the New York rush-hour traffic and the passenger was in a hurry. "Please," he said to the driver, "can't you go any faster?"

"Sure I can," the cabby replied. "But I ain't allowed to leave the cab."

[The foregoing is obviously a reworking of an old railroad joke:]

The traveler was indignant at the slow speed of the train. He appealed to the conductor:

"Can't you go any faster than this?"

"Yes," was the serene reply, "but I have to stay aboard."

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Revised November 11, 1998