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John D. Hertz

John Daniel Hertz, Sr.
Hertz in 1899
Born Sándor Herz
(1879-04-10)April 10, 1879
Sklabiňa, Martin, Kingdom of Hungary
Died October 8, 1961(1961-10-08) (aged 82)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Occupation Businessman:
Taxis & rental cars
Racehorse owner/breeder
Board member of
General Motors
Religion Jewish
Spouse(s) Fannie Kesner (m. 1903–61) (his death)
Children Leona Jane Hertz
John Daniel Hertz, Jr.

John Daniel Hertz, Sr. (April 10, 1879Template:Spaced ndashOctober 8, 1961) was an American businessman, thoroughbred racehorse owner and breeder, and philanthropist.


Born Sándor Herz in the town of Ruttka (now Vrútky), in the Kingdom of Hungary.[1] His family emigrated to Chicago when he was five.

As a young man, Hertz Jr. was an amateur boxer, fighting under the name "Dan Donnelly."[1] He won amateur championships at the Chicago Athletic Association and eventually began to box under his own name and became the manager for Benny Yanger[who?]. He lived at 880 Fifth Avenue.[2]

Business career

Hertz had extensive and complex business interests, mainly in the transport sector.

Hertz's first job was selling newspapers, and eventually he became a reporter for the Chicago Morning News. When the paper, then called the Chicago Record, merged with another paper, he lost his job. Although he couldn't drive, in 1904 he found a job selling cars at the suggestion of a friend.[1] Because of the number of trade-ins, he came up with the idea of creating a cab company with low prices so the common man could afford to ride in them. In 1907, he had a fleet of seven used cars that he used as cabs.[1]

He founded the Yellow Cab Company in Chicago in 1915, which offered taxicab service at a modest price. The distinctive yellow cabs became popular in his home city and were quickly franchised throughout the United States. He then founded the Chicago Motor Coach Company in 1917 to operate bus transport services in Chicago and the Yellow Cab Manufacturing Company in 1920 to manufactured taxicabs for sale. In 1923, he founded the Yellow Coach Manufacturing Company to manufacture coaches and later cars. In 1924, he acquired a rental car business, renaming it Hertz Drive-Ur-Self Corporation.

Competition between the Yellow Cab Company and Checker Taxi in Chicago was fierce and frequently violent with a number of shootings and deaths.

By 1925, the Yellow Cab Company was owned by the "Chicago Yellow Cab Company," which in turn was owned by Hertz, Parmelee and some other investors. In the same year he established The Omnibus Corporation to control both the Chicago Motor Coach Company and the Fifth Avenue Coach Company in New York.

In 1925, Hertz held the following positions:[3]

In 1926, he sold a majority share in Yellow Cab Manufacturing Company together with its subsidiaries, Yellow Coach Manufacturing Company and "Hertz Drive-Ur-Self," to General Motors. Hertz became a main board director at GM at the same time.[4]

He then sold his remaining interest in the Yellow Cab Company in 1929 following the firebombing of his stables, where 11 horses were killed.

In 1933, Robert Lehman sold Hertz a minority interest in Lehman Brothers investment bank in New York City and he remained a member of the firm until his death. In 1938, Hertz was prepared to buy Eastern Air Lines from General Motors but the airline's General Manager, Eddie Rickenbacker, was able to raise the necessary financing to acquire Eastern before Hertz could exercise his option. In 1943, he sold his remaining financial interest in Yellow Coach Manufacturing Company to General Motors.

Using The Omnibus Corporation he re-purchased the car rental business from General Motors in 1953. The Omnibus Corporation then divested itself of its public transport interests, changed its name to The Hertz Corporation and floated on the New York Stock Exchange the following year.

Personal life

In 1903, he married Francis (Fannie) Kesner of Chicago with whom he had three children: Leona Jane, John Jr., and Helen. John Jr. became an advertising executive and was briefly married (1942-44) to film star Myrna Loy.

Thoroughbred horse racing

Main article: Stoner Creek Stud

John and Fannie Hertz were major figures in Thoroughbred horse racing. They owned a horse farm at Trout Valley near Cary, Illinois, another known as Amarillo Ranch in Woodland Hills, California. Stoner Creek Stud near Paris, Kentucky became their most important breeding and training center. Among their top horses were the 1928 Kentucky Derby winner and American Horse of the Year, Reigh Count, who sired Count Fleet, winner of the United States Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing in 1943. Both horses were inducted in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.[1][5]


During the Cold War era, Hertz established the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation with the purpose of supporting military research. Friend Edward Teller urged Hertz to orient his foundation to fund education in the applied sciences. The Hertz Foundation fellowship program was originally administered primarily by scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who were associated with the military's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile defense programs. For his significant contribution to the security of the U.S., in 1958, he received the highest civilian award given by the Department of Defense.

In 1924, Hertz fronted the city of Chicago $34,000 to install the city's first traffic lights, on Michigan Avenue.[5]


Hertz died on October 8, 1961.[6] His wife died two years later.[7] They were originally buried together in the Rosehill Cemetery (Chicago, Illinois). Their remains are at Woodlawn cemetery in the Bronx, New York City.


  1. ^ a b c d e Sawyers, June Skinner (1991). Chicago Portraits. Chicago: Loyola University Press. pp. 120–121. ISBN 0-8294-0700-6. 
  2. ^ HERTZ GIVES FUND FOR SCHOLARSHIPS; Transport Fortune to Train Engineers for Defense of Nation He Adopted Focusing on Those in Need, New York Times, Sept. 20, 1957 [1]
  3. ^ "Gas-Electric Motorbus Co., Roland Gas-Electric Vehicle Co., New York Motor Bus Co.,...". Coachbuilt. 1925 - Hertz is today president of the Yellow Cab Company; chairman of the board of the Yellow Truck and Coach Manufacturing Company; chairman of the Omnibus Corporation of America; chairman of the Chicago Motor Coach Company; chairman of the Fifth Avenue Coach Company; chairman of the New York Transportation Company; chairman of the Yellow Coach Manufacturing Company; chairman of the Yellow Sleeve-Valve Engine Works, Inc.; and chairman of the Benzoline Motor Fuel Company 
  4. ^ "Hertz". Coachbuild. 
  5. ^ a b "Golden opportunity". Chicago Tribune Magazine. 2007-11-25. p. 31. 
  6. ^ "John D. Hertz Is Dead on Coast. Led Yellow Cab and Rent-a-Car. Founder of 2 Concerns Was 82 -- Owned Noted Horses, Including Count Fleet". Associated Press in the New York Times. October 10, 1960. Retrieved 2010-12-11. John D. Hertz, founder of the Hertz Rent-A-Car System, Inc., and of the Yellow Cab Company, died last night He was 82 years old. Mr. Hertz retired in 1955 ... 
  7. ^ "John Hertz's Widow Dies at 82 in Florida". Chicago Tribune. February 5, 1963. Retrieved 2010-12-11. Mrs. Hertz, whose husband founded the Yellow Cab company and developed the Hertz Rent-a-car system, also helped him develop one of America's leading ...