An Icon of American Transportation Takes Its Last Fare

January 14, 2010

Checker Motors Corporation, a longtime vehicle manufacturer that was best known for its popular taxicabs, ceased to exist altogether with the sale of the company’s headquarters in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The company’s origins can be traced to the early 1920s, when a Chicago clothier named Morris Markin became the owner of an automobile body manufacturing operation in Joliet, Illinois after the previous owner was unable to repay him a loan. Markin subsequently took over Commonwealth Motors, a failed automobile manufacturer, and merged the two companies to form Checker Motors Corporation. The company soon thrived by manufacturing the taxicabs used by Checker Taxi.

Checker Taxicabs became renowned for their trademark checkerboard trim and were highly valued by many drivers for their sturdiness as well as such features as large rear seats and trunks. By 1930, the taxicabs were available in black, maroon, and yellow. Checker Taxicabs developed into one of the dominant producers in the taxi industry, at one point employing approximately 1,000 people and churning out 5,000 vehicles on an annual basis. The company produced other vehicles over the decades, but it was most clearly defined by its Checker Taxicabs.

The last Checker Taxicab rolled off the assembly line in 1982 and the company then focused instead on producing automobile parts. The company’s taxicabs have remained a beloved automotive treasure, especially in New York City.

“It has been more than a decade since the last old Checker cab disappeared from the city’s ranks and nearly three decades since the last new cab rolled off the production line,” reported the New York Times when the company came to an end.  “And yet, as a quick visit to any shop peddling tourist trinkets will confirm, that boxy yellow taxi with the cartoonish styling and a passenger cabin the size of a Manhattan living room remains an enduring symbol of New York.”

For more information on Checker Motors Corporation, please check out

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