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Morris Markin - The Lord of The Checkers
 
Morris Markin was born into a large and poor Jewish family in Smolensk, Russian Empire, in 1893 or 1894, and from early childhood had to earn his bread, including toiling at a warehouse and working in a tailor shop as a helper.
 
His last job, by the way, would later do him a great service! In 1912, because of constant poverty, Markin decided to leave for America, where a relative of his had been living in Chicago.  
 
Having spent all of his money on the steamboat ticket (according to an urban legend, he had to borrow $25 from a janitor at Ellis Island to bribe an Immigration Services) Morris earned his living in a Chicago tailor shop, and, thanks to his experience and talent, earned quite a living. So after the owner of the shop had died, he was able to buy out the business and make a fortune on state orders of uniforms during the World War I! 
 
In 1921 a debtor gave up his car body factory to Markin, the Commonwealth Motors. The clothing magnate knew how to use it to his benefit: he bought  several small companies that made all the parts necessary to assemble a car, and founded his own car manufacturer, the legendary Checker Cab Manufacturing Co., which quickly became the leader in supplying taxi parks with vehicles.
 
Notably, the term "checkered car" came from the distinctive checkerboard patterns painted on all of Markov's taxis, to signify the finish flags at races, a symbol of winning, according to Morris.
 
In 1929, he purchased the Yellow Cab Company from John Hertz.
 
It would be fair to say, however, that Markin owes his success - to a degree - to the Prohibition and the Mafia of the 30s: thanks to his cars' common appearance, the roomy boot, where one could hide several small barrels with forbidden liquids, and the spacious interior, fit for up to 9 people, it became the favorite among the gangsters, and even Al Capone himself rode in a modified "checkered car" around Chicago.
 
And in 1960 the company produced the cult model "Marathon", made known by many by Martin Scorcese's "The Taxi Driver" film starring Robert DeNiro. By the end of the 60s, practically all the cars of all the taxi parks in the country were using Markov's cars!
 
Moris died a multi-millionaire in 1970, aged 76. Because of financial troubles, the pushy competition and the lack of the great leader, in 1988 Checker Cab ceased  production.
 
Sources:
Moreno, Barry. Ellis Island's Famous Immigrants.  Arcadia Publishing, San Francisco:2008.
Ancestry.com 
 

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