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The Hackney Carriage (Black cab)
A Hackney, a Hackney Carriage, a Black Cab, a London Taxi or a Hack are different names for the same thing. It is an automobile or a carriage for hire. There are two versions about the origins of the name Hackney. One tells that is a derivation of a French word haquenée – Which was a medium sized horse special for women that were riders; however the other opinion is that the name comes from a the village Hackney which is now part of London.
Around 1650 there were already Hackney cabs in London and adjacent places. These hackneys consisted in horse-drawn carriages that later were modernized as hansom cabs and hackney coaches in 1834. The second were vehicles of four wheels and six seats; they were driven by a jarvey and also spelled jarvie. And of course they were hirable vehicles.
After, came the electric hackney carriage, it was before the introduction of the internal combustion engine to vehicles for hire in 1901. These electric cabs were called Berseys after the man who designed them, Walter C. Bersey. These cars were also called hummingbirds for the sound they made. By the beginning of the 20th century lots of horse-drawn carriages were replaced by cars, the last horse-drawn one ceased service in London in 1947.
Nowadays according to UK regulations a Hackney Carriage is just a taxi cab which is allowed to look for and pick up people on the street and of course charge them, contrasting with the private hire vehicles which are called minicabs and are previously booked by passengers.
Most of the hackney carriages have been traditionally black; that’s why they are also called black cabs, nevertheless there are hackney cabs of other colors as well, for example 50 golden cabs were produced for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebration in 2002. There are also cabs of many other colors usually aimed for advertising. So it could be said that black cabs are not only black anymore.