Inspired by John Hertz who had set up his Yellow Cab business in Chicago in 1914, Checker Taxi put their first ‘Mogul’ cab on the streets of Chicago June 18, 1923.
Mogul was the trade name of autos manufactured by Commonwealth Motors.
Checker Taxi soon ordered additional Mogul cabs from Commonwealth Motors.
However, Commonwealth Motors was on the verge of bankruptcy and was forced to merge with Markin Automobile Body in order to honor the contractual commitment with Checker.
Markin Automobile Body was owned by Chicago clothier Morris Markin.
In 1924, Morris Markin began buying up Checker Taxi’s vehicles in order to take control of the company.
Markin followed Yellow Cab’s business plan in having taxi drivers open doors for the fares, and outfitted each driver with a uniform.
Competition became fierce between the two taxi companies as the drivers ganged up on one another between fares. Yellow Cab was involved in considerable illegal activity relating to mobsters and in particular the “Chicago Outfit.”
The fighting escalated to the point where Markin’s home was firebombed, and Hertz lost his prized race horses when his stables were burned down in 1928.
This fare war prompted Markin to relocate Checker Taxi to Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Checker Taxi went on to hire African-American drivers and was the first company to require drivers to pick up all fares, not just white ones.
Then in 1929, Hertz sold Yellow Cab to Markin in order to concentrate on the car rental business (Hertz Rent-a-Car which incidentally still uses a yellow logo).
Markin created the Parmelee Transporation System and began to provide taxi cab service in major U.S. cities with franchise rights.
Soon another company entered the taxicab business, when General Motors started the Terminal Taxi Cab company.
This began a second fare war between Markin’s Parmelee company (including Checker and Yellow) and GM’s Terminal division fighting it out in New York City.
To end the dispute, New York Mayor Jimmy Walker created the New York Taxi Cab Commission.
Markin sold Parmelee to E.L.Cord, but bought it back again in 1936.
By 1940, Markin’s Parmalee company (including Yellow and Checker Cab) became the largest cab company in the United States.
Markin began building his “Checker” taxicab, particularly the 1956–82 Checker Motors Corp. A8/Marathon, which remains the most famous taxi cab vehicle in the United States. The vehicle is comparable to the London Taxi in its nationally renowned styling, which went unchanged throughout its use, and also for its iconic status.
Then in 1964, the State of New York charged Markin and Checker with antitrust violations, alleging that he controlled both the taxi service and manufacture of taxis, and thus favored itself in fulfilling orders.
Rather than allow Checker drivers to begin buying different brands of cars, Markin began selling licenses in New York City.
As Federal safety rules increased throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Checkers kept pace and despite having the same basic body design, Checker enthusiasts can often identify the year of a Checker based on its safety equipment.
Morris Markin died July 8, 1970.
The final Checker “Marathon” was manufactured in 1982, when Checker exited the automobile manufacturing business.
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