In Victorian times, Londoners also had transportation choices of horse-drawn trams and horse-drawn buses, but if one were in a hurry—as Mr. Sherlock Holmes frequently was—the hansom cab was the way to go, if one could afford it. The poor walked. The mass-transit trams and buses provided the lowest fares, but amongst the private carriages one could hire, hansom cabs were cheaper than landaus because they required only one horse, thus lowering the carriage owner’s operating expenses.
Joseph Aloysius Hanson patented his cab design in 1834, billing the vehicle as a “safety cab” because the carriage’s center of gravity was lower than in other types of two-wheeled carriages and it had fewer accidents. Londoners wanting to summon a hansom cab had several options. One could prearrange with a cab driver to arrive at your door at a certain time. Or, if a cab was nearby, one could simply shout for it. If a cab was not nearby, one could pay a street urchin to run to the nearest stable or cabstand to fetch one. Or, on a more fashionable note, one could purchase a cab-whistle and toot once for a four-wheeler or twice for a hansom.
Check out this video dated 1896 showing various forms of London transportation crossing Blackfriars Bridge—including jaunty hansom cabs!
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Blackfriars Bridge, 1896