Taxi as Icon: News Clips and Selected Essays
Monday, July 7, 1930

Last month Editor Hugh Alwyn Inness Brown of Taxi Weekly, Manhattan, returned from a business trip, was greeted by a process server, shown a copy of the paper published in his absence. Pop-eyed with amazement Editor Brown flpped pages to "The Coffee Pot," a column conducted by Hackman Otto Lewis. This is what he read: "The MEANEST RIDER! He rides from Jackson Heights to 52nd Street and 6th Avenue. Just an old grouch as mean as he looks and he looks terrible. Grumbles from the minute he enters your cab until he pays you the exact fare. . . ."
And so on for six lacerating paragraphs to the conclusion: "The name of the man who has the somewhat dubious reputation of being . . . the world's worst rider, is Darling!" Editor Brown pocketed the summons, to answer one Herbert T. Darling's $50,000 libel suit, no less distressed by his paper's breach of etiquette than by the fact that the "meanest" rider was not Mr. Darling but a man employed at the same address. Last week Taxi Weekly printed a lengthy retraction and apology, but despite the good-natured advice of the court, Mr. Darling continued his suit, which pends.

Mortified though he might be, Editor Brown of Taxi Weekly had many a more pressing matter to demand his time and energy. As champion of Manhattan's taxi industry he had to keep vigorously alive Taxi Weekly's battle for limitation of cab licenses, for higher rates.* He had to keep a critical eye upon efforts of various agencies to "organize" the city's taximen. He had to maintain his perpetual guard against unfair treatment of drivers by police. Most difficult and important of all, he had to continue striving to hold the confidence of four conflicting elements in the city's cab business: the driver, the owner-driver, the fleet owner, the company operator.

Taxi Weekly discreetly avoids stirring any controversy within the ranks, but is quick to pounce upon threats from without, great or small. In 1927 it campaigned successfully against proposed legislation to raise insurance rates on cabs. And with scarcely less vigor it commanded the attention of Mayor James John Walker to the case of a Jewish driver who had been deprived of his license for refusing to pick up a passenger on Yom Kippur Eve. A two-year battle with the police department forced the opening of "star chamber" hearings of drivers, stamped out police practices by which cabmen had paid $1,000,000 a year petty graft. The paper has provided free counsel for cabmen, maintains gratis a "bureau of fair play" to collect fares for trusting drivers who fall victim to ruses. It is a sworn enemy of all "rackets." It also aspires to be a "friendly, happy" paper, and for a time gave cabmen the syndicated gladness of the late Dr. Frank Crane.

The Editor. New York cabmen, particularly when in trouble, confide in scholarly, cultured, big-framed Editor Brown. The windowless office adjoining the littered pressroom in the basement of an uptown apartment house has been sanctuary for many a strange confession. But certain it is that Editor Brown never returned the confidence by pointing to his own name (formerly hyphenated Inness-Brown) in New York's Social Register. A graduate and medalist of University of Virginia where he edited the student paper, he drove an ambulance in France in 1916, later joined the 1st Division, A. E. F., emerged as a captain with a Croix de Guerre, six citations, and a wound from the Argonne. Later he was advertising manager of Mogul Checker Cab Co., published its house organ until the company crumbled under the strain of lowered fares. Five years ago he started Taxi Weekly against a local field of seven monthly trade papers. Only one competitor. Taxi News, survives, and it is a fortnightly. Taxi Weekly "turned the corner" at the age of nine months, but it is now suffering with the depression of the whole industry. Its guaranteed circulation of 12,500 is frequently exceeded by 50% or 75% if weather is fair on Monday, when legions of urchins rush forth with bundles of the week's edition, leaping from running board to running board of cabs in the city's traffic jam. In 1928 Taxi Weekly gave birth to a national edition, addressed to all U. S. taxicab companies, now reaching 4,000 readers.

* Last week there were approximately 63,500 licensed hack drivers in Greater New York, the total increasing by about 300 each week. Of 20,000 registered cabs, 15,000 are on the streets by day, 18,000 by night. The minimum and general fare is for the first quarter-mile, 50 for each subsequent quarter-mile— fought by Taxi Weekly as a "starvation" rate.