All Hail New York Taxis: Gotham Cabs and Cabbies of the 1940s
The New York City of most peoples’ imaginations usually looks and sounds like the New York of a few very distinct decades. There’s today’s post-Giuliani, Bloombergicized New York City, of course — the bright, weirdly clean (well, it’s clean in parts of Manhattan, at least) largely smoke-free metropolis of complicated bike lanes, pedestrian malls and other “improvements” that feel about as New Yawk as a wine spritzer at a football game.
Then there’s the Big Apple of the 1970s: the New York of Mean Streets and Taxi Driver; of “Ford to City: Drop Dead” and Blondie, Television, Talking Heads, Patti Smith, the New York Dolls and the Ramones at Max’s Kansas City; of “the Bronx Is Burning” and Son of Sam. The New York, in other words, of the old, scary, late, lamented Times Square of sordid lore.
Finally, there’s New York in what many consider its Golden Age: the New York City of the 1940s and 1950s, when men wore hats, women wore gloves, a dime got you a cup of coffee and — in the popular imagination, anyway — there were doormen standing on every curb, flagging down taxi cabs for dames who looked like Veronica Lake.
Here, in honor of that last vision of Gotham as a noir film set where absolutely everything is seen in deep-shadowed black-and-white, LIFE.com recalls those big, burly taxi cabs of the 1940s, and the rough-looking, distinctive characters who drove them.