|Died||18 July 1892 (aged 83)|
Knighton, Leicester, England, UK
|Occupation||Founder of Thomas Cook & Son|
|Organization||Thomas Cook & Son|
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.
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.
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.
On 2 March 1833, Cook married Marianne Mason (1807-1884) at Barrowden in Rutland. A son, John Mason Cook, was born on 13 January 1834. Thomas Cook died at Thorncroft, Knighton, Leicester, on 18 July 1892, having been afflicted with blindness in his declining years. He was buried with his wife and daughter at Welford Road Cemetery, Leicester.
Cook's idea to offer excursions came to him while "walking from Market Harborough to Leicester to attend a meeting of the Temperance Society". 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 500 people, who paid one shilling each for the return train journey, on his first excursion.
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.
Thomas Cook acquired business premises on Fleet Street, London in 1865. 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.
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.
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.