Thomas Cook (22 November 1808 – 18 July 1892) was an English businessman. He is best known for founding the travel agency Thomas Cook & Son.

Thomas Cook
Born(1808-11-22)22 November 1808
Died18 July 1892(1892-07-18) (aged 83)
OccupationFounder of Thomas Cook & Son
OrganizationThomas Cook & Son

Early lifeEdit

Thomas Cook was born on 22 November 1808, to John and Elizabeth Cook, who lived at 9 Quick Close in the village of Melbourne, Derbyshire.[1]

At the age of 10, Cook started working as an assistant to a local market gardener for a wage of six pence a week. When he was 14, he secured an apprenticeship with his uncle John Pegg, and spent five years as a cabinet maker.[1]

Cook was brought up as a strict Baptist. In February 1826, he became a Baptist missionary and toured the region as a village evangelist, distributing pamphlets and occasionally working as a cabinet maker to earn money.[1]

In 1832, Cook moved to Adam and Eve Street in Market Harborough. Influenced by the local Baptist minister Francis Beardsall, he took the temperance pledge on New Year's Day in 1833. As a part of the temperance movement, he organised meetings and held anti-liquor processions.[1]

On 2 March 1833, Cook married Marianne Mason (1807–1884) at the parish church in Barrowden in Rutland. A son, John Mason Cook, was born on 13 January 1834.[1] A daughter, Annie Elizabeth, born on 21 June 1845, died tragically aged 35 after inhaling poisonous fumes from a faulty water heater while bathing at home.[2] Thomas Cook died at Thorncroft, Knighton, Leicester, on 18 July 1892, having been afflicted with blindness in his declining years.[3] He was buried with his wife and daughter at Welford Road Cemetery, Leicester.[4]

Cook's first excursionsEdit

Panels from the Thomas Cook Building, Gallowtree Gate, Leicester, displaying excursions offered by Thomas Cook

Cook's idea to offer excursions came to him while "walking from Market Harborough to Leicester to attend a meeting of the Temperance Society".[5] With the opening of the extended Midland Counties Railway, he arranged to take a group of temperance campaigners from Leicester Campbell Street railway station to a teetotal rally in Loughborough, eleven miles away. On 5 July 1841, Thomas Cook escorted around 485 people, who paid one shilling each for the return train journey, on his first excursion.[6] This is sometimes reported as the world's first railway excursion;[7] however this is incorrect as Grosmont church (Whitby) had already organised an excursion as a fund raiser in 1839.[8]

On 4 August 1845 he arranged for a party to travel from Leicester to Liverpool. In 1846, he took 350 people from Leicester on a tour of Scotland. In 1851 he arranged for 150,000 people to travel to the Great Exhibition in London. Four years later, he planned his first excursion abroad, when he took two groups on a 'grand circular tour' of Belgium, Germany and France, ending in Paris for the Exhibition.[6]

The Thomas Cook statue outside Leicester Railway Station, London Road, Leicester was unveiled on 14 January 1994 by his great-great-grandson Thomas Cook. It was sculpted by James Butler RA.[9]

He was awarded Serbian Order of Saint Sava.[10]

Thomas Cook & SonEdit

Thomas Cook acquired business premises on Fleet Street, London in 1865.[11] The office also contained a shop which sold essential travel accessories, including guide books, luggage, telescopes and footwear. In 1872, he formed a partnership with his son, John Mason Andrew Cook, and renamed the travel agency as Thomas Cook & Son.[3]

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 1868. 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.[6]

Conflicts between father and son were resolved when the son persuaded his father, Thomas Cook, to retire at the end of 1878. He moved back to Leicester and lived quietly until his death in 1892.[6]

Cook's grave in Welford Road Cemetery, Leicester

Legacy – Thomas Cook and mass tourismEdit

Nile cruise poster from 1922

Thomas Cook was a frontrunner of establishing tourism systems and thus made mass tourism possible in Italy. First, the circular tickets could be used on almost all Italian railways. These tickets allowed travel by train for a preset number of days along predetermined routes. Second, Cook designed a series of hotel coupons to complement circular tickets, which could be exchanged for lodging and meals at designated accommodations. Last, he introduced the circular notes which could be changed at designated hotels, banks, and tickets agents for Italian lira at a predetermined exchange rate. Cook's introduction of tourism-specific currency facilitated easier and effective trips within Italy. Also, by introducing a widely dispersed coupon system, Cook "helped to stabilize the burgeoning Italian economy not only by increasing the revenues from tourism but also by expanding the circulation of Italy's new currency, the lira." The coupon system spread rapidly and was well accepted throughout Italian cities. Furthermore, thanks to this system, middle class Italians could afford to travel more frequently and more easily.[12]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ a b c d e Williamson, Andrew (1998). The Golden Age of Travel. Thomas Cook. ISBN 978-1-900341-33-2.
  2. ^ Seaton, Derek (1996). The Local Legacy of Thomas Cook. Norwood Press. ISBN 0-9528948-0-7.
  3. ^ a b Chisholm 1911
  4. ^ "Welford Road Cemetery gets an App". This was Leicestershire. 10 December 2012. Archived from the original on 22 September 2019. Retrieved 21 September 2019.
  5. ^ Ingle R, 'Thomas Cook of Leicester'
  6. ^ a b c d "Leicester – the birthplace of popular tourism". The Story of Leicester. Retrieved 22 September 2019.
  7. ^ Parkin, Diane. "Thomas Cook and the First Rail Excursion". Time Travel Britain. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  8. ^ "Grosmont". Grosmont Statiion notice board. North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  9. ^ "Thomas Cook statue". Crosby Heritage. Retrieved 22 September 2019.
  10. ^ Acović, Dragomir (2012). Slava i čast: Odlikovanja među Srbima, Srbi među odlikovanjima. Belgrade: Službeni Glasnik. p. 596.
  11. ^ "History of Thomas Cook". The Telegraph. 20 September 2019. Retrieved 22 September 2019.
  12. ^ Stephanie Malia Hom (2015). Destination Nation: The Grand Tour, Thomas Cook, and the Arrival of Mass Tourism. University of Toronto Press. pp. 93–103. ISBN 978-1-442-64872-2.

General sourcesEdit

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