L&K taxis: the hallmark of a big city
The glorious day in the history of Prague’s taxi service – and a landmark event for Centre Europe – came on 7 September 1907. On the first day, a LAURIN & KLEMENT B2 car started its trial operation, followed by C2 model cars. From the following day onwards, Prague residents could enjoy a ride in the first four taxis.
In the words of the popular contemporary magazine Světozor, “the automobile cabs of Prague set off into the squares and streets, giving them the feel of a major city. These cabs certainly represent the safe traffic of the future, for against them, when their transport becomes somewhat cheaper, all competition from ordinary horse-drawn cabs and fiacres will be in vain. What seems a sensational novelty today will soon acquire the full right of daily use by and indispensability to the public.”
A period LAURIN & KLEMENT advertisement announcing the launch of the taxi service in Prague
The first taxi drivers sought to attract their target group of customers, i.e. wealthier citizens arriving in the city by train, by situating a taxi rank in front of what is today Masaryk Station, with others in the streets Havlíčkova ulice and Ferdinandova třída (which is today’s Národní, or National Avenue) and at the Powder Gate. LAURIN & KLEMENT’s newspaper advertisement stressed comfort and low prices, but contemporary sources fail to mention the actual fare rates. We also read that “the proceeds from the first day's fares will go to the city’s poor”, meaning the takings were given to charity. The taxis – though not all – were already equipped with meters and the fare could be followed on a mechanical counter. The term “taxi meter” soon started to be used as a nickname for the automobile cabs themselves in Prague, as evidenced by contemporary newspapers, magazines, films, and the recollections of witnesses.