What Is a Hackney Cab?

Part 2 of my guide to Dukes Prefer Blondes (originally posted at Two Nerdy History Girls).

My characters in Dukes Prefer Blondes spend time in hackney coaches and hackney cabs. You will often find the terms used interchangeably, as though they were the same thing. However, a hackney cab was quite a different article from a hackney coach. The cab was a two-wheeled, one-horse vehicle. It held only two passengers, and seemed to be generally regarded as a mode of transportation for those who liked to live dangerously. It was called a "coffin cab"  not merely on account of its coffin-like shape.

Leigh’s New Picture of London for 1834 briefly explains the difference here. You can read about them here in Omnibuses and Cabs, Their Origin and History, which includes excerpts from Dickens’s lively descriptions.

I’ve written a bit more about hackney coaches here, and you can read Dickens’s full version (which originally appeared in Bell’s Life in London in November 1835) here in Sketches by Boz.

Cruikshank, “The Last Cabdriver", illustration in Sketches by Boz; 1823 cab, from Omnibuses and Cabs.