- Written by webmin
We’ve mentioned time and again how excellent Shorpy is for old car spotting, and one of the recent photos that blog posted proves that. The above image is a detail from a much larger photograph of Broadway in 1905 and shows two interesting vehicles: the sightseeing bus on the left and the cab on the right. If you’re a reader of Hemmings Classic Car, then your September issue (which should be in your hands in the next few days) will contain a similar sightseeing bus in the pages of Lost and Found; itself similar to other New York City sightseeing buses we’ve previously posted here on the blog. That previous post also contains a front view of several similar cabs.
We know that both of these vehicles were electrics; that much should be evident from their configurations and the giant motors underneath the cab. It seems no two of the sightseeing buses were the same, and they were operated by various hotels around New York City, so researching them has proved difficult.
As for the electric cab, it appears to be an evolution of the Electrobat, considered to be the first successful electric vehicle. The builder was likely the Electric Vehicle Company of New York City, which bought the rights to the Electrobat in 1897 and was eventually bought by Columbia. However, we see that Electric Vehicle Company contracted Specialty Electric from Cincinnati to build its cabs, so they likely contracted with other companies as well. Ben Merkel and Chris Monier’s book, “The American Taxi: A Century of Service,” has a couple additional photos of these cabs and notes that they used 800 pounds of lead-acid batteries, steered with the rear wheels, drove through the front, had a top speed of about 15 MPH and took eight hours to recharge. About 200 were on the streets of Manhattan in 1900, but they seem to have gone extinct by about 1910.
UPDATE (9.July 2010): Twin6, on the excellent thread of pre-WWII photos on the H.A.M.B. recently included another photo of the New York City Electrobats, showing them from the front this time.