Thomas Cook  

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Thomas Cook (22 November 180818 July 1892) of Melbourne, Derbyshire, founded the travel agency that is now Thomas Cook AG. He was brought up as a strict Baptist and joined his local Temperance Society. He worked as a cabinet maker and part-time publisher of Baptist and Temperance pamphlets, becoming a Baptist minister in 1828. John Mason Cook, his only son, was born in 1834.

The first-ever excursions

Cook's idea to offer excursions came to him while waiting for the stagecoach on the London Road at Kibworth. With the opening of the extended Midland Counties Railway, he arranged to take a group of 570 temperance campaigners from Leicester London Road railway station to a rally in Loughborough, eleven miles away. On 5 July 1841, Thomas Cook arranged for the rail company to charge one shilling per person that included rail tickets and food for this train journey. Cook was paid a share of the fares actually charged to the passengers, as the railway tickets, being legal contracts between company and passenger, could not have been issued at his own price. During the following three summers he planned and conducted outings for temperance societies and Sunday-school children. In 1844 the Midland Counties Railway Company agreed to make a permanent arrangement with him provided he found the passengers. This success led him to start his own business running rail excursions for pleasure, taking a percentage of the railway tickets.

On 4 August 1845 he arranged accommodation for a party to travel from Leicester to Liverpool. In 1846, he took 350 people from Leicester on a tour of Scotland, however his lack of commercial ability led him to bankruptcy. He persisted and had success when he claimed that he arranged for over 165,000 people to attend the Great Exhibition in London. Four years later, he planned his first excursion abroad, when he took a group from Leicester to Calais to coincide with the Paris Exhibition. The following year he started his 'grand circular tours' of Europe. During the 1860s he took parties to Switzerland, Italy, Egypt and United States. Cook established 'inclusive independent travel', whereby the traveller went independently but his agency charged for travel, food and accommodation for a fixed period over any chosen route. Such was his success that the Scottish railway companies withdrew their support between 1862 and 1863 to try the excursion business for themselves.

With John A Mason Cook, he formed a partnership and renamed the travel agency as Thomas Cook and Son. They acquired business premises on Fleet Street, London. By this time, Cook had stopped personal tours and became an agent for foreign or domestic travel. The office also contained a shop which sold essential travel accessories including guide books, luggage, telescopes and footwear. Thomas saw his venture as both religious and social service; his son provided the commercial expertise that allowed the company to expand. In accordance with his beliefs, he and his wife also ran a small temperance hotel above the office. Their business model was refined by the introduction of the 'hotel coupon' in 1866. Detachable coupons in a counterfoil book were issued to the traveller. These were valid for either a restaurant meal or an overnight hotel stay provided they were on Cook's list.

In 1865, the agency organised tours of the United States, picking up passengers from several departure points. John Mason Cook lead the excursion which included tours of several Civil War battlefields. A brief but bitter partnership was formed with an American businessman in 1871 called Cook, Son and Jenkins; however after an acrimonious split the agency reverted back to its original name. A round the world tour started in 1872, which for 200 guineas, included a steamship across the Atlantic, a stage coach across America, a paddle steamer to Japan, and an overland journey across China and India, lasting 222 days.

In 1874, Thomas Cook introduced 'circular notes', a product that later became better known by American Express's brand, 'traveller's cheques'.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Thomas Cook" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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