Walter Jacobs entered the car renting business in Chicago in 1918, at the age of 22. His fleet consisted of 12 black Model T Fords, which he rented to motorists for $10 a day. When he wasn't totaling up accounts, Jacobs was out in the garage with a wrench or polishing rag, putting his "gas buggies" in shape for the next day's business. One of the merchandising gimmicks Jacobs used to sell the rental idea was an open touring car carrying billboards.
So successful were his efforts that within five years his fleet had grown from 12 to 565 cars, with annual rentals totaling $1 million -- quite a remarkable feat for 1923. Jacobs first named his company Rent-a-Ford, but then changed it to Rent-a-Car, and finally to the Yellow Driv-ur-self System.
In 1923, Jacobs sold his company to John Hertz and was hired as Hertz's top operating and administrative executive.
Jacobs retired from the Hertz Corp. as president and chief executive officer.