The Smith Brothers Can Set You Up With a Hearse … Or a Cab — 1888

ad-dallas-cab-undertaker_imm-gd-1889Need a ride? (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Need a hearse? No? Then how ’bout a cab?

Diversification is the key to success! Ed. C. and G. D. Smith — of the Ed. C. & Bro. Undertakers and Embalmers — branched out from the hum-drum world of mortuary science and entered the exciting world of transportation-for-hire (it really IS only a short jump from hearse to cab). Their Dallas Cab Co. provided the city with something brand new: Gurney cab service.

The “Gurney cab” was the invention of Bostonian J. Theodore Gurney — it was a two-wheeled, horse-drawn cab into which passengers entered through the back and, for a quarter, rode in sleek, well-appointed comfort. This new form of conveyance was an alternative to the larger, clunkier, slower “hacks.” Gurney patented his cab in 1883 and traveled around the country promoting his vehicle to large cities. He visited Dallas in March, 1888:

gurney_dmn_031888Dallas Morning News, March 18, 1888

He must have been pretty persuasive, because the “Gurney cabs” went on the streets less than three weeks later:

gurney_fwdailygazette_040588Fort Worth Daily Gazette, April 5, 1888

Gurney worked his way around Texas. Next stop was Fort Worth:

gurney_fwdailygazette_041488FWDG, April 14, 1888

Then Austin:

gurney_austin-weekly-statesman_042688Austin Weekly Statesman, April 26, 1888

As to whether the more familiar hospital “gurney” (a wheeled stretcher) has any connections, some say yes and some say no (both arguments can be read here). Wouldn’t it be great if those Smith boys went into stretcher manufacturing a few years later? Cabs — stretchers — hearses: they’ve got you covered … coming and going.


Ads from The Immigrant’s Guide to Texas — City of Dallas, 1888. They did, in fact, appear on the same page.


An interesting article — “The Short, Contentious, History of the Gurney Cab Company in San Francisco” by Donald Anderson — can be read here.

The fare for hiring a Gurney cab was 25 cents, which according to the Inflation Calculator, was about $6.00 in today’s money.

Click top ad for larger image.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.