A Hackney or Hackney Carriage is a carriage or automobile for hire and is traditionally known as the Black Cab or London Taxi. A decade after the new registration system came into force; Hackney Carriages were required to be fitted with a distinctive sign to indicate how many persons the vehicle could seat.
Hackney is an English village, now part of the London Borough, and was once thought to be the anglicized derivative of French “haquenée” - a horse of medium size recommended for ladies. Hackney soon became famous in the middle-ages for its horse-drawn carriages, is the root of the Spanish word “Jaca” a term used for a small breed of horse and the Sardinian Achetta breed.
During the mid-16th century licences for road transportation became required by an act of parliament. The Commissioners of Scotland Yard was established to regulate them and licenses were applied to all horse-drawn carriages. They were later modernised as Hansom Cabs and it was this style of carriage that would become iconic in shape and size.
Designed to combine speed and safety the Hansom Cab was modified by several engineers to improve its practicability. It replaced the Hackney Carriage as a vehicle for hire and introduced clockwork mechanical taximeters, a payment hatch, a mechanism to relieve the doors so passengers could alight and an up-and-over glass window to protect back splash from the outside terrain.
In the United States, the police department of the city of Boston has a Hackney Carriage Unit, analogous to taxicab regulators in other cities, which issue Hackney Carriage medallions to its taxi operators.