A history of British travel: a look back at Thomas Cook's vintage posters

Thomas Cook's history dates back 178 years

Powered by automated translation

"A Cook's ticket brings the world to you," an Atlas-inspired poster, dating back to the British Edwardian era, proclaims.

The statement is a reminder of the travel company Thomas Cook's long history, and today it has announced that it has ceased operations after 178 years of booking holidays.

Click through the gallery above to see a collection of the travel agency's past vintage posters.

From promoting travel to the "Continent" for ski trips, to advertising Nile cruises and steamship journeys to Jamaica, the posters paint a picture of the travel company's turn-of-the-century glory days, as well as colonial-era Britain's view of some destinations.

The travel agency has archived the posters from their 178 years of travel, and three years ago, when it celebrated its 175th anniversary, it released a special collection of the illustrations.

History of Thomas Cook

Known as the company that commodified "mass travel" for Brits, travel agent Thomas Cook began by organising his first trip, between the English cities of Leicester and Loughborough in 1841.

By 1845, he was arranging trips between England and Scotland for groups of travellers.

It was 14 years before the company went international, offering "continental tours" from the English county of Essex to Antwerp in Belgium. The same trip took travellers to Brussels, before going on to Cologne and Heidelberg, Germany.

In 1865, the very first Thomas Cook high-street shop opened in London’s Fleet Street. It would be the first of hundreds of stores where British holidaymakers would flock in the hope of seeing the world.

The company led its first trip to America in 1866, followed by a tour of Palestine and Egypt in 1866. In 1873, Cook completed his first round-the-globe tour. The adventure was called the London to London tour. It took 222 days, covered more than 29,000 miles and cost around 200 guineas.

Thomas Cook can also be credited with the first iteration of the traveller’s cheque. The company introduced circular notes in 1874 as a simple way for travellers to have access to money in foreign countries.

Along the way, the Thomas Cook logo has seen plenty of different forms:

In 1892, Thomas Cook passed away. His son Mason Cook would follow him to his grave just seven years later. At that point, the company passed to Mason Cook’s three sons who embraced their family’s travel-focussed footsteps. The trio organised the first escorted tour through Africa, a five -month tour that started in Cairo and ended in Cape Town.

Then, one hundred years ago, it was time to take to the skies and the company organised its first air tour, flying passengers from New York to Chicago and throwing in ringside seats for the Dempsey-Tunney heavyweight boxing contest.

Not long after, the Cook family sold the business to the then owners of the Orient Express. By 1950, more than a million British holidaymakers were booking with Thomas Cook to travel abroad each year.

In 2003, the newly branded Thomas Cook airlines was launched and by 2019 the company had 560 stores around the UK. Sadly with today’s announcement it seems that the travels are finally over for Thomas Cook.