Written By: Ben Cosgrove

The New York City of most peoples’ imaginations usually looks and sounds like the New York of a few very distinct decades. There’s today’s post-Bloomberg New York City, of course — the bright, weirdly clean (well, it’s clean in parts of Manhattan, at least) largely smoke-free metropolis of complicated bike lanes, pedestrian malls and other “improvements” that, to most people, feel about as New Yark as a wine spritzer at a football game.

Then there’s the Big Apple of the 1970s: the New York of Mean Streets and Taxi Driver; of “Ford to City: Drop Dead” and Blondie, Television, Talking Heads, Patti Smith, the New York Dolls and the Ramones at Max’s Kansas City; of “the Bronx Is Burning” and Son of Sam. The New York, in other words, of the old, scary, late, semi-lamented Times Square of sordid lore.

Finally, there’s New York in what many consider its Golden Age: the New York City of the 1940s and 1950s, when men wore hats, women wore gloves, a dime got you a cup of coffee and — in the popular imagination, anyway — there were doormen standing on every curb, flagging down taxi cabs for dames who looked like Veronica Lake.

Here, in honor of that last vision of Gotham as a noir film set where absolutely everything is seen in deep-shadowed black-and-white, LIFE.com recalls those big, burly taxi cabs of the 1940s, and the rough-looking, distinctive characters who drove them.

A New York City doorman flags down a taxi for one of the residents of his building, 1944.

Taxi Cabs 1944

William C. Shrout Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Scene in New York City, 1944.

Taxi Cabs 1944

William C. Shrout Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Scene in New York City, 1944.

Taxi Cabs 1944

William C. Shrout Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Taxicabs line up for arriving train passengers at (the original) Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 1944.

Taxi Cabs 1944

William C. Shrout Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

New York cabbies sporting their numbered Public Hack Driver badges, 1944.

Taxi Cabs 1944

William C. Shrout Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Scene in New York City, 1944.

Taxi Cabs 1944

William C. Shrout Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Taxi "hack stand," New York City, 1944.

Taxi Cabs 1944

William C. Shrout Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Train passengers wait to take taxi cabs outside (the original) Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 1944.

Taxi Cabs 1944

William C. Shrout Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Close-up of typical cab driver's report including locations and fares collected during his day's work; taxicab drivers lined up at company's garage to turn in money collected in fares during the day (right), New York City, 1944.

Taxi Cabs 1944

William C. Shrout Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Mechanics use a hoist to drop in the motor of a taxicab under repair at cab company's maintenance garage, NYC, 1944.

Taxi Cabs 1944

William C. Shrout Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Taxicabs on Park Avenue, NYC, 1944.

Taxi Cabs 1944

William C. Shrout Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Scene in New York City, 1944.

Taxi Cabs 1944

William C. Shrout Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

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