The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of Morris Markin’s involvement with the creation of Checker Cab Manufacturing Corp. The culminations of the consolidation of three companies: The Lomberg Auto Body Company, Commonwealth Motors and the Checker Taxi syndicate of Chicago. The following is an excerpt from Mark Theoblad’s Coachbuilt.com.
Commonwealth relocated to Joliet, Illinois in 1919 and the car’s sturdy reputation resulted in sales to a number of Chicago taxi operators. Later that year they introduced their Mogul Taxi, a purpose-built vehicle utilizing the sturdy Commonwealth frame and purpose-built bodies provided by another Joliet firm, the Lomberg Auto Body Mfg. Co.
The Lomberg Auto Body Manufacturing Co. was organized in the late-teens by a Russian immigrant named Abraham (Abe) Lomberg (1883-1951) to manufacture automobile bodies for the region’s numerous automobile manufacturers. In order to produce the number of bodies needed by Commonwealth for their new Mogul taxi, Lomberg was forced to seek additional capital, which was supplied by another Russian immigrant named Morris Markin. Markin was a successful Chicago clothier who had amassed a small fortune providing uniforms to the US Army during World War I.
Markin was born into poverty in the western Russian city of Smolensk in 1893. After a minimal public education he found work in a local clothing factory and by the age of nineteen had become foreman of a trouser manufacturer’s sewing department. Faced with a bleak future in Czarist Russia, Markin accepted an invitation from an uncle in Chicago to emigrate to the United States. He used his savings and booked passage on a steamer bound for New York’s Ellis Island, arriving in 1913.
Upon his arrival in Chicago, he found work as an assistant tailor and soon became a skilled tailor. Following the death of his employer, he was put in charge and eventually purchased the business from the tailor’s widow. Within the year, he had accumulated enough spare earnings to finance the emigration of his immediate family to the United States, and found them positions in Chicago’s growing garment industry. He eventually entered the ready made suit and pants business with one of his brothers and by the time World War I rolled around, he received a lucrative contract to supply uniforms for the US Army.
When the war ended, Markin was flush with capital, and began to invest in a number of Russian-owned local businesses, one of which was Abe Lomberg’s Auto Body Company to which he loaned out $15,000. Unfortunately for Lomberg, the expected sales of Commonwealth’s Mogul taxis fell far short of expectations and by the end of 1920, Lomberg could no longer keep up with the monthly payments and surrendered ownership of the firm to Markin.
As the nation fell into the post-war recession of 1920-21, things looked bleak for both Lomberg Body and Commonwealth, and production fell to less than 10 completed vehicles per week. Luckily Commonwealth received a substantial order from the Checker Taxi Company in late 1920 just as Commonwealth’s creditors were closing in. The order kept the receivers at bay for a number of months, but by late 1921, Commonwealth Motors Corp. was finally forced into bankruptcy.
The shrewd Markin completed a number of legal maneuvers in rapid succession in order to protect his body building investment. In late 1920, he had reorganized the Lomberg Body Company into the Markin Body Company, and following Commonwealth’s bankruptcy, had made an offer to exchange shares in the Markin Body Corporation for the assets of the now bankrupt auto manufacturer.
Markin had somehow managed to get the assets of the Markin Body Company assessed for $182,703 which was most likely many times greater than the firm’s actual value, which gave him an extraordinary share of the firm’s stock. However, it looked good to Commonwealth’s receivers, and as it was the best, and most likely the only, offer presented to for Commonwealth’s assets, it was accepted in October of 1921. After waiting a few months for the dust to settle, Markin merged the two firms, and reorganized them as the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company in May of 1922.
For more information about Markin’s investments check out the following additional articles on the Coachbuilt website.