Taxi services in Denver are almost as old as the introduction of the automobile itself. In 1913 existing taxi services were placed under the regulatory authority of the newly created Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The two longest running taxi companies, Yellow Cab, founded in 1924, and Metro Taxi, established in 1932, continue to operate in Denver today.
Many small taxi companies came into being in the early 1900’s, one of which started in Boulder, Colorado in 1918 by Florence Molloy and Mabel MacLeay. Only one other taxi service was operating in Boulder at the time until the owner of the service was drafted to serve in World War I. His departure gave way to the first woman owned taxi business in Colorado.
The Boulder based widows operated out of an office in the Boulderado Hotel with a single five passenger Cadillac 8. The business began to grow as the women volunteered with the Red Cross during the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak. They assisted in transporting medical professionals and supplies to mountain towns.
In a turning point for the small business, a local undertaker assigned Molloy to retrieve a victim of the Spanish flu. The undertaker’s hearse couldn’t navigate the rough mountain roads. Molloy was resistant at first but took the job with the undertaker’s insistence. The successful journey was evidence to the women that no trip was too difficult and catapulted the business forward.
As female taxi drivers, they were often specifically hired by parents of female students attending the University of Colorado (CU). Serving as both driver and chaperone, the women provided a level of security and peace of mind for the girls and their parents. They were also favorites of Jean Sherwood’s “Bluebirds,” an organization of working women from Chicago who vacationed at Bluebird Cottage in Boulder.
The Molloy-MacLeay Taxicab Company was more than a taxi service. Adding more cars to the fleet, they would take people on scenic tours through Nederland, Idaho Springs and up to Lookout Mountain. They were also favorites for funeral processions and were regularly referred by a local doctor.
Molloy and MacLeay charged twenty-five cents for a ride across Boulder and seven dollars for a scenic trip to Estes Park, Colorado in one of their luxury touring sedans. They were respectable women of the times, and as part of the prohibition era, would not pick up “drunks” or transport liquor.
But their success didn’t sit right with some of the male owned taxi services. With lower prices than their competitors, and owning a fleet of eight cars, they secured a contract with the Union Pacific Railroad, garnering exclusive right to solicit passengers from the trains at the Boulder depot.
The jealous competitors would work towards getting legislation passed supporting strict solicitation rules. With the new law in effect, three male taxi drivers filed a complaint against Molloy and MacLeay for violating the city ordinance. While the women showed passengers were not obligated to use the taxi service, the judge ruled against them and the Molloy-MacLeay taxi stand was removed from the depot.
With this defeat and so much opposition to their business, the two women sold Molloy-MacLeay Taxicab Company to Yellow Cab in June 1926. They continued to operate a touring service and opened the Double M Dude Ranch in Gold Hill, Colorado, where they provided mountain vacations, tours and luxury accommodations to visitors from the East.
We can tell you this: the Golden Triangle Auto Care crew would have loved to have worked on their early Cadillac 8 and expanding fleet of eight cars.
Photo Credit: Molloy and MacLeay – Photo courtesy of the Carnegie Library for Local History / Museum of Boulder Collection