Saturday, March 31, 2018
"Reconstructing the Jehus:" How the Telegraph Tamed the "Hack Menace" in San Francisco
My new article on the history of how the first dispatched cab service was invented in San Francisco, way back in 1877, has been published ahead-of-print in the Journal of Urban History:
There is also a pre-print version (aka a rough draft) available for free download:
Abstract: In the late 1870s, the American District Telegraph in San Francisco introduced an intra-urban telegraph network, marketed to businesses and upper-class homes. Subscribers, needing no knowledge of telegraphy, used a dial to order pre-set services, such as messengers, police, and coal delivery. One of the service’s most noted innovations was the ability to summon hired carriages through the callbox. To provide hack service through its network, the ADT bought up many of the city’s carriages and consolidated them into the United Carriage Company, one of the first dispatch-oriented cab fleets anywhere. By controlling cab dispatch, the UCC also promised to reform the unruly occupation of hackdrivers. Though the telegraph box was soon supplanted by the telephone, it had put in motion a reorganization of the city’s cab industry which quickly became intricated with the politics of class and control in public space.