Many readers have no doubt seen the news of the demise of the travel company Thomas Cook. Some may not be aware of the long history of the company, or its tie to the Civil War.
Thomas Cook founded his eponymous excursion company in 1841 as a way to create opportunities for Britons of all classes to tour Europe. He also had a list of approved hotels and partners, many of whom also espoused his temperance views. At its peak, the company Thomas Cook had operations and offices all over the world. That’s where the Civil War connections come in.
In 1866 Thomas Cook started its North American operations. The first destinations were Civil War battlefields, which catered to a market of British people interested in visiting the scenes of a war they had read about in their newspapers over the past four years. From this beginning, the company’s American operations expanded further—including a cross-country leg of an around-the-world trip offered in the late 19th Century.
Thomas Cook also had its part in military history as the transport company that took General Garnet Wolseley’s army up the Nile for its doomed attempt to relieve Khartoum in 1885. Before the Sudan expedition, Wolseley had written several columns and a book on various aspects of the Civil War.