John Daniel Hertz

By Nick Megyeri

This is a biography of an entrepreneur named John Hertz. John Hertz was a man who had many different careers and interests that kept him very busy. When reading this biography I hope that you, the reader, will be as impressed as I was as at the amount of great things this man accomplished. This was not someone who was willing to just go through everyday life being satisfied with only a few minor accomplishments. John Hertz was driven by something internally that made him strive for great things. He seemed to grow and grow as the years went on. In terms of his careers and interests, John Hertz never wanted to quit striving for new and exiting goals to keep himself motivated and moving forward. I will try to touch on these various careers and interests as this biography dives further into what this man was really like and what he liked to do. I think it is going to be pretty obvious that John Hertz was not a one demensional person and that he always had something new going on to keep himself busy. I believe that this is a definite sign of a great man. Within the next couple of pages, I will hopefully show you where this man came from, how he got started, what he accomplished, and why what he contributed to the business world was so important and needed.

John Daniel Hertz was born in Ruttka, Austria, which is now Czechoslovakia, on April 10, 1879. He remained in Austria until the age of five. At age five his parents thought it was time for a change so they made the move from Austria to Chicago. His parents also figured that there would be more opportunities for work in Chicago than in Austria, so it seemed like the only logical thing to do to help support their family. Since it was not very easy for them to find work in Chicago, and they were having a hard time supporting their family, something needed to be to done.1 So John Hertz, along with his family, made the decision to quit the public school system and go to work to help support the family, which was greatly needed.

John Hertz, now at the age of ten, began his long and meaningful career with a job as a newspaper boy. John would hang out on the streets of Chicago to try and make a little money for his family by selling newspapers. He did this for a while and was pretty successful at it as well, until his next opportunity came along. His next job was as a wagon driver, which he earned six dollars per week to do. After the job as wagon driver ended, John got his next job at the Chicago Morning News as a copy boy. He worked there for a brief period of time before the Chicago Morning News changed their name to the Chicago Record. He moved his way right up the ladder at the Chicago Record do to his good work and dedication. Since he handled the copy boy duties with ease, he was promoted to sports reporter. John excelled as the sports reporter for the Chicago Record so the people there promoted him again. He was promoted to the position of assistant sports editor. He then remained as the assistant sports editor at the Chicago Record until that newspaper merged with another newspaper and he lost his job.

John Hertz excelled at his last two careers do to the fact that he enjoyed writing and reading about sports as well as participating in them. His main interest was in the sport of boxing. Since John was so interested in boxing he decided to act on his interest and curiosity by taking boxing lessons at a Chicago gym on North Clark Street. As he got more and more interested in boxing he thought it would be a good idea to start boxing for real, which he did. Do to the anti-Semitism or negativity towards Jews at this time, he decided to fight under a different name, Dan Donnelly. Under the name Dan Donnelly, he went on to win numerous amateur events at the Chicago Athletic Association, which led him to managing professional boxers. Also during this time, when he was active in the sport of boxing, he held weekly boxing matches at the Star Theater on Clark Street in Chicago.

After John got out of the sport of boxing altogether, a friend of his brought up the idea that the future was moving towards automobiles. This made John curious and interested in learning more about automobiles. So in 1904, even though he couldn't drive, he began selling automobiles and was very successful at it.2 Do to the fact that he was doing so well at it, he was made a partner in an automobile agency that dealt mainly with trade-ins and used cars. While doing this job he was inspired to do something new, something different. So in 1907 he put those used cars to good use by using them as taxicabs. In 1907 taxicabs were just for the rich, they were not for everybody. So this is when John Hertz thought is was time for the general public to also have the opportunity to use taxicabs. Since the other taxicabs were too expensive for the average person, John made his taxicabs accessible for everyone by lowering the rates. He also told the public that his taxicabs could be wherever they wanted them within ten minutes. Not only did he provide the public with affordable transportation, he provided jobs as well. His employees had to work under his high standards though, they had to dress well for work, be polite, and keep the taxicabs clean at all times. He also painted his taxicabs yellow to make it easier for the public to identify his taxicabs.

In 1915 John Hertz purchased seven limousines and used those to establish his Yellow Cab service, which did not go over very well with the public. The public complained that the cars were just too big and cost too much. Hertz adapted his business to what the public wanted and replaced the limousines with smaller, less expensive cars like he used when he started out with the used ones. Since his taxicab service was going good again, he increased his amount of taxicabs to forty and started his own manufacturing plant which was used to manufacture taxicabs at first but led into also manufacturing buses and trucks.

Everything was still going forward in 1923 so Hertz decided to dive into the rental business. He bought a rental company from a local salesman and started a business called the Yellow Drive-It-Yourself Company. This company was known for its large automobile called the "Ambassador," which was also used as a rental car. This large automobile did not go over very well with the public because of its size, and how other people knew that they were driving a rental car.3 This venture, along with the manufacturing company were both sold in 1925 to the General Motors Company. Not so long after that transaction, Hertz sold his Yellow Cab Company to the Parmalee System which was then bought by Checker Motors. Hertz was not finished in the rental business though because in 1953 Hertz bought the Yellow Drive-It-Yourself Company back from the General Motors Company. Once he bought the company back he changed the name of it to Hertz Rent-A-Car.

Before John Hertz passed away in October of 1961 he accomplished many things and held many important positions in the business world. Such as director of the First National Bank of Chicago and the director of Paramount Pictures Corporation which he did while he was also busy with his rental business. I think his greatest accomplishment and contribution to the business world is how he satisfied the public's need for affordable transportation. He obtained the supply to satisfy the demand of the people.4

  1. "Hertz, John Daniel," Who Was Who In America, 1968, p. 433
  2. June Skinner Sawyers, Chicago Portraits (Chicago, 1991), pp. 120-121
  3. Ibid., pp. 120-121
  4. Ibid., pp. 120-121

John Daniel Hertz, Who Was Who In America, Volume IV, Chicago, Marquis-Who's Who Incorporated, 1968

Sawyers, June Skinner, Chicago Portraits, Chicago, Loyola University Press, 1991

This page was written and created by a student enrolled in a business course at the University of St. Francis. The content of this page is the work and opinion of the author, not the faculty or staff of the University of St. Francis. Neither the University nor its employees are responsible for the content of this web page.

General questions regarding these web page assignment can be directed to Gerard Kickul.