Skip to main content

Ralph E. Oakland Collection

Identifier: RH-A-4354


The collection is composed of 2 boxes filled with 21 folders of books, magazines, newspapers, brochures, correspondences, history, and other papers regarding the Checker Cab Company of Kalamazoo, Michigan from its start in 1921 to its bankruptcy in 2010.


  • Creation: approximately 1921-2010


Morris Markin Biography

Morris Markin was born in Russia July 15, 1893. In 1912, he moved to Chicago where he worked as an errand boy and later as a tailor’s apprentice. When his boss died suddenly, he bought the shop on credit for his boss’s widow. In WWI he was hired on contract to make US Army uniforms and made a fortune.

He later began running a fleet of taxicabs and an auto body shop. The two main cab companies at the time were Yellow Cab Company and Checker Cab Company. Checker did not own a cab manufacturing company in 192 like Yellow Cab Company did. Instead, they partnered with Lomberg Auto Body Manufacturing Co. and Commonwealth Motors to produce the Mogul Taxi for Checker Cab Co. Markin loaned money to Lomberg and he later took possession of the company, renaming it Markin Automobile Body and bought Commonwealth Motors in October 1921 and merged them to form Checker Cab Manufacturing Co. in 1922. The company moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1923.

Markin made cabs for Checker Cab Co., but also made Checker passenger cars for a time, including the Superba, a sedan, and a limousine.

Morris Markin died July 8, 1970 and his son took over Checker. The last Checker Cab made in Kalamazoo was made July 12, 1982, though they continued making parts until 2009. The Kalamazoo Plant was sold January 14, 2010 to the Jones Group, marking the end of the company.

John Hertz Biography

John Hertz founded Yellow Cab Company, but sold it to General Motors in 1925, but managed to retain his stakes in the company. He sold controlling interest to Parmelee Transportation Company and in 1929 sold the rest to Markin, who bought Parmelee Transportation Co. and took control of both Parmelee and Yellow Cab.

Ralph E. Oakland Biography

Ralph E. Oakland was born January 12, 1899 in Chicago, Illinois and he became the Vice President of Checker Cab Manufacturing Corporation in Kalamazoo. He died December 9, 1980.


2 boxes : 21 folders total. One of boxes contains 5 legal size folders, while the other contains the remaining 16 legal size folders.

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by David and Patti Oakland. (David is Ralph’s grandson.)

Physical Description

The collection consists of 21 folders kept in 2 boxes. Within the folders, there are a plethora of different papers ranging from books, newspapers, magazines, correspondences, photographs, illustrations, history, and more. One of the boxes contains 5 legal size folders, while the other contains the remaining 16 legal size folders.

Overall, the items in the collection are in pretty good condition, with some papers having more wear than others, and care should still be taken handling the items. Everything is still legible.

Ralph E. Oakland Collection Finding Aid
Leo Gingerich; Stephanie Chapman
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections Repository

Charles C. and Lynn L. Zhang Legacy Collections Center
1650 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5307 US
(269) 387-8490