The Hansom Cab is something that people will have seen in movies and in picture books and old photographs. It is a two wheeled carriage pulled by a single horse with a driver perched on the back of the carriage. This was invented by a gentleman called Joseph Hansom in the year 1834 in Hinckley, a town in Leicestershire, England. Joseph Hansom was an architect who was born and brought up in York before moving to Hinckley.
Joseph Hansom brought his architectural skills to bear by designing his cab to have a number of improvements over the carriages that were in use at the time in Hinkley and the rest of the world. The word ‘Cab’ refers to the word ‘Cabriolet’ which describes the design of the carriage. One of the major advances that Hansom introduced was to design the cab to have a low centre of gravity. This quality made sure that cornering at speed was safer than ever before, and there was less chance of the carriage falling on its side.
The most popular carriage of the time was called the Hackney Carriage. The cab had four wheels and was therefore heavier, so it had to be pulled by two horses. The test drivers were able to overtake the slower four wheeled carriages on the roads of Hinckley with ease. The Hansom Cab was more agile too, and could swerve around the slower Hackney Carriages being pulled on the roads of Hinckley.
The rigorous testing that Joseph Hansom and his test drivers carried out on the roads of Hinckley showed that the Hansom Cab was faster, safer, lighter and more economical to run than the Hackney Carriage, as it only needed one horse instead of two. Following its development and testing on the roads of Hinckley, the Hansom Cab became a great success. It became all the rage, and quickly replaced the Hackney Carriage as the most popular conveyance for people in England.
News of this brilliant invention spread quickly around the world, and before long the Hansom Cab was in use in Paris, Berlin and St Petersburg in continental Europe. By the late nineteenth century they were also being used in the United States of America, with the largest numbers being in New York. From its beginnings on the roads of Hinckley, the Hansom Cab became established in New York in the year 1869 through the Hansom Cab Company.
The Hansom Cab was the preferred means of transportation up to the 1920s when the advent of two things took over. These were low cost motor cars and reliable mass transit public transport systems. The last license that was issued to a driver to operate a horse drawn cab was granted in the year 1947.
So Hinckley certainly has a claim to fame in the world of transport. People these days may think that the word taxicab has always been used to describe cars, but in fact the word taxicab was used to describe a Hansom Cab with a taximeter installed in it. A taximeter was a clockwork device for measuring and displaying the fare that the passengers would be charged at the end of their journey.