Happy Birthday Mr. Cook!

What do a market gardener, a Baptist preacher, a cabinetmaker and a printer all have in common? They are just some of the early professions of Thomas Cook, founder of one of the world’s most famous travel companies, whose 204th birthday is being celebrated today (Nov. 22). Inspired to popularize travel by making it cheaper, easier and safer for everyone, Cook conducted his first excursion, a 12-mile rail journey from Leicester to Loughborough, on July 5, 1841. This was just the beginning of his venture into the world of travel that, in little more than three decades, would lead him into Europe, across America, up the Nile and, ultimately, around the globe. Undoubtedly Cook impacted and influenced the way people travel today, but as the company that bears his name looks to celebrate his birthday, it takes a look at some of the key facts about the man himself and some of the early travel innovations of Thomas Cook as a tour operator: !!! Thomas Cook worked as a gardener’s boy, a cabinetmaker and a printer before entering the world of travel. !!! He was very religious and from the age of 19 to 22 he worked as a wandering Baptist preacher. He was also a teetotaler and an active supporter of the Temperance Movement. !!! Despite visiting at least 20 foreign countries during his lifetime, Thomas did not speak any language other than English. !!! Thomas Cook almost drowned in the Nile during his first tour of Egypt in 1869. !!! Thomas did not die a wealthy man. He gave away much of his profits to the poor and to religious establishments. !!! Thomas opened his first shop on Fleet Street in London in 1865, introduced prepaid hotel coupons in 1868 and holiday brochures in 1858. !!! Thomas published the company’s first edition of ‘Cooks Continental Train Time Table and Tourist Handbook’ in 1873 – today known as the European Rail Timetable, it is now in its 150th edition. !!! Thomas introduced the ‘Cooks Circular Note’ in 1874 – this later became known as the “Travellers Cheque.”!!! Thomas Cook, the company, was the official passenger agent for the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896. !!! Thomas Cook introduced flights on specially chartered aircraft to the French Riviera in 1939. (http://www.ThomasCookGroup.com/history)