Taxi in Edwardian era

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LilianL

Member
Chinese
Hello all,

I was reading My Fair Lady, and there was a scene where people were looking for taxi.

Was this "taxi" a vehicle car just like today's taxi or a horse-drawn wagon?

Thank you.
 
  • Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Yes, a horse-drawn taxi.

    Anna Sewell wrote Black Beauty, a story told in the first person in the “person” of a horse. A large portion of Black Beauty’s life was spent drawing a Hansom Cab as a taxi. (Hansom designed the “cab” which is short for “cabriolet” as a safer vehicle for high speed travel.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    At the time when it was set, it could be either; motor vehicles were coming in. The 'taximeter', the machine for measuring distance, and which gives taxis their name, was invented early enough to be used on hansom cabs. I've looked at all the mentions of 'taxi' in the play (Pygmalion), and it doesn't mention horses or motors for any of them.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Pygmalion was first presented in the 1870s. The first motorized taxis in London was in 1897. So these had to be hack cabs (horse drawn).

    See: http://www.lvta.co.uk/history.htm

    London’s first motor cabs were electrically powered. They were called Berseys after Walter C. Bersey, the manager of the London Electrical Cab Company who designed them, but were nicknamed ‘Hummingbirds’ from the sound that they made. 25 were introduced in August 1897 and by 1898 a further fifty of them were at work. Unfortunately, they proved costly and unreliable and there were a number of accidents, including one fatality. Public confidence in them evaporated and they were withdrawn by 1900.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    Hello all,

    I was reading My Fair Lady, and there was a scene where people were looking for taxi.

    Was this "taxi" a vehicle car just like today's taxi or a horse-drawn wagon?

    Thank you.
    Taxis were motorized vehicles dating to 1907 in the US, according to the Oxford English Dictionary entries "taxi" and "taxicab" and this Scientific American article.

    Correction: The Scientific American article refers to taximeter motor cabs and taximeter cabs in the US, but does not use the word taxi. On the other hand, the first cited use of taxi in the OED is from the Daily Chronicle of 1907, a London newspaper. From the entry "taxi":

    1907 Daily Chron. 26 Mar. 6/7 Every journalist..has his idea of what the vehicle should be called. It has been described as the (1) taxi, (2) motor-cab, (3) taxi-cab, (4) taximo,..(7) taximeter-cab.
    Taximeters had been used on horse-drawn vehicles earlier, but there does not appear to be any evidence that they were called taxis or taxicabs.

    From the OED entry "taximeter":
    1909 Westm. Gaz. 22 June 7/3 A taxi-meter was tried on horse-cabs in London over half-a-century ago.
    Addition: The Internet Movie Cars Database has a picture of a Renault taxi from My Fair Lady. It looks to me to be a motorized vehicle (with a horse-drawn vehicle in the background).

    This page has a clearer view of an Edwardian Renault taxi.
     
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    Mahantongo

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.)
    Pygmalion was first presented in the 1870s.
    Actually, Pygmalion was first presented in 1913. The stage directions (e.g., the driver reaches behind him to hold the door shut when Eliza approaches) also make it clear that a motor vehicle is meant.
     
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    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Just a point. My Fair Lady (see OP) is not Pygmalion. It's a musical written in the 1950s based on Pygmalion, later produced as a film.
     

    Mahantongo

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.)
    I've seen the movie. It is not about London in the 1950s, it is about London in the 1870s.

    Does this look like the 1950s?
    No, but it doesn't look like the 1870s, either. Note, for example, the enormous "Merry Widow"hats, the "hobble skirt" Eliza wears to Ascot, and the shorter length of women's walking or daytime attire (as in what Eliza wears during her lessons, or during the confrontation with Freddie Eynseford-Hill.

    While the Pygmalion is set in 1913, when it opened, Cecil Beaton -- the costume designer for the play and the movie My Fair Lady -- moved it back three years to 1910. He did so not only because he loved the fashions of the Edwardian eara of his youth, but also because it gave an excuse for the Ascot costumes. Edward VII died that year, and so, because of official mourning, people who went to Ascot in June could not wear bright colors. Instead, they dressed either in black or in black and white (thus producing the name "black Ascot" for the event that year), which produced the famous monochrome palette of the "Ascot gavotte" scene.

    In any case, whether in 1910 or in 1913, when Eliza speaks of a taxi she probably means a motor vehicle.
     
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    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I've seen the movie. It is not about London in the 1950s, it is about London in the 1870s.
    It's set in the Edwardian era -early 1900's. The scene shown is at the Ascot Racecourse in rather fancy dress. The hats in a picture of a recent Kentucky Derby might also mislead you as to the time period. :)
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I never said it was about London in the 1950s. I just pointed out that the OP asked about My Fair Lady, not Pygmalion, so references to Pygmalion are somewhat off target. I've also seen the film (ie My Fair Lady) and a stage production and, like Pygmalion, it's set in Edwardian London. King Edward VII came to the throne in 1901 and the Edwardian period ended with his death in 1910. The women's clothes in the film are also a bit of a clue that it's not 1870.

    Cross-posted, I see. By the way, Mahantongo, Edward VIII died in 1972 - one too many "I"s ;)
     

    Mahantongo

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.)
    Cross-posted, I see. By the way, Mahantongo, Edward VIII died in 1972 - one too many "I"s ;)
    Thank you; correction made. I suppose I was possessed by the ghost of George V, and it was after-the-fact wishful thinking on his part.:D
     
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