Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Cabs (from French cabriolet, a diminutive of cabriole, the name being applied because of the bounding motion of the vehicle) were introduced into Paris about the middle of the last century, and speedily became very popular. About 1813 there were 1,150 of them on the stands at Paris. They were introduced into London in 1823, when Messrs. Bradshaw and Rotch obtained licences for twelve at a fare of 8d. per mile. These cabs ran on two wheels, and had a large leather hood for use in wet weather; the driver sat beside the fare. They speedily displaced the old hackney coaches, familiar from Dickens's earlier works, which were lumbering two-horse vehicles, plying at that time at a fare of 1s. per mile. These coaches had been introduced in 1623 under James I.; the first coach stand in London was established 1634, and though at first objected to by the Government they held their ground. Soon after the introduction of cabs the fare was raised to 1s. a mile, and the numbers speedily increased, first to 50, then to 100, and then the limit to those licensed was removed. The hansom, so called from its inventor, was patented in 1834. It was then a square body on a square frame, hung between wheels as high as itself, about 7 ft. 6 in. in diameter. This type was speedily improved on, and in 1836 a cab company was formed under a fresh patent. In 1852 there were 1,150 cabs plying for hire in London; in 1886, 9,700; at present (1891) there are 11,297. In Paris there are about 6,000 cabs of two types, voitures de place and voitures de remise. Most of them belong to one or two large companies; but the cab company has never succeeded very well in London. The improvements introduced by some of the London companies have encouraged their drivers to obtain more in "tips," and so forced up the hire of the cabs as to make it unremunerative - the usual system being for the driver to hire his cab by the day. Despite efforts to vary the type of London cab only two have survived: the hansom or "shoful," and the brougham or "growler." The "tribus," the "brougham hansom," and others have been introduced, but failed to take, probably because the fares are fixed by law at a uniform rate. While the hansom, in Lothair's words, is "the gondola of London" (except that it travels three or four times as fast), the "growler" has no merits, save, perhaps, its capacity for carrying luggage. Both drivers and vehicles are licensed by the police authorities in London, and in most provincial towns, and are under tolerably stringent police restrictions.