In July 1892 Thomas Cook, the founder of the famous travel company died.
His obituary was written up in the papers across the country, and it was quite a story and the origins of the firm surprising. Did you know the company was born out of a desire to stop people drinking alcohol?
Here’s the full transcription from one of the papers.
DEATH OF MR THOMAS COOK. Mr. Thomas Cook, the originator of the excursion system of railway travelling and founder of the well-known firm of Messrs. Thomas Cook and Son, whose headquarters are at Ludgate-circus, London, died at his residence, Thorncroft, Stonegate, Leicester, about midnight on Monday. His success in life was entirely due to his indomitable courage and energy under the most discouraging conditions. Born on November 22, 1808, at Melbourne, in Derbyshire, of very humble parentage, he had in his early years a severe struggle for the bare means of existence. He was only four years old when his father died, and he commences to earn his daily bread at the age of ten, when he was employed in a village garden at the wage of 1d. a day. At this early age he contrived also to be of material assistance to his mother, who kept a small shop for the sale of books. Soon afterwards he took to hawking fruit and vegetables Derby market place, and a little later went learn wood-turning. Afterwards he went to Loughborough, where he entered the employment of Mr. John Winks, a printer and publisher of books in connection with the General Baptist Association. In 1828 he was appointed a Bible reader and village missionary for the county of Rutland, and in the following year he travelled 2,692 miles of which 2,106 miles were covered on foot. Having in 1832 married Miss Mason, daughter of a Rutland farmer, he removed to Market Harborough, where, in addition to his work in connexion with the Baptist Association, he carried on the business of wood-turner. In 1836 he became a total abstainer, and he was an ardent temperance reformer for the remainder his life. Subsequently he published a monthly paper called the Temperence Messenger, of which he was the editor. This was followed by the Children’s Temperance Magazine in 1840.
In 1841, whilst walking from Market Harborough to Leicester to attend a temperance meeting, he read in newspaper a report of the opening of a part of the Midland Counties Railway, and the idea burst upon him that the new means of travel might be used for the benefit of the temperance movement. If, thought Cook, the railway company could be induced to run a special train from Leicester, many persons might be removed from the temptations of the races and great results might be achieved. He broached the subject to his friends, and arranged with the railway company for special train to Loughborough on the 5th of July, 1841. This the first publicly advertised excursion train, conveyed no fewer than 570 passengers at 1s each, the event caused great excitement. The passengers were preceded to the Leicester Station by a band of music. At Loughborough they were met by a crowd of people: and they were welcomed home with equal enthusiasm. The success of this trip induced Mr. Cook to combine the management of excursions with his book and printing business in Leicester, to which town he had removed. He organized trips to Derby, Nottingham, and Birmingham, and the business having grown so much that in several trips he conveyed between 4,000 and 5,000 people, he in 1844 entered into permanent arrangements with the directors of the Midland Railway to place trains at his disposal whenever they were required while he provided the passengers. Next year saw an extension of the system to Liverpool, the Isle of Man, and Dublin. He also about this period organized a trip to Scotland, and conveyed 350 passengers from Leicester and Nottingham to Glasgow, where the excursionists received a warm welcome.
His next move was to provide hotel coupons for his patrons, and Scotland was the field of his first endeavours in this direction. Personally conducted tours to Ireland followed, and in 1851 Mr. Cook conveyed many thousands of people to the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park. The business began to extend in all directions in England and on the Continent. Mr. Cook’s ambition was the institution of an annual tour round the world, which he successfully accomplished. His first tour round the world was in 1872, when he, with nine companions, started to make what he termed an exploratory tour. The tour was completed in 222 days.
Mr Cooke retired from the firm in 1878, the business then being placed under the sole control of his son, Mr. John M. Cook. The jubilee of the firm was celebrated by banquet at the Hotel Metropole in July last year. Mr. Cook’s career as in excursion manager and the history of his operations form an agreeable volume written last year by Mr. Fraser Rae on the occasion of the jubilee. During the last few years of his life Mr. Cook was afflicted with blindness. On Monday evening he was walking about his residence apparently in his usual health, but shortly after 8 o’clock he was suddenly seized with paralysis the side. Medical aid was at once summoned, but Mr. Cook never rallied, and passed peacefully away just before midnight.