Trailblazers, 1863

Trailblazers, 1863
English tourists explore the Mer de Glace glacier with their French guides,

The first guided tour of the Alps and the road to modern tourism

Bibek Bhattacharya
April 05 , 2014
01 Min Read

Tourism arguably began with the Victorian middle class fascination with ‘leisure excursions’. Beginning with the great sights of Europe, they eventually covered a large chunk of the world.

By the middle of the nineteenth century the Alps were well known, but still a matter of great curiosity. So on June 26, 1863, Thomas Cook & Sons took its first party of sixty-four on a tour of the Alps with Cook acting as the guide.


Starting in Geneva and going onto Chamonix, Leukerbad and Interlaken, the group took in most of the main sights in a three-week blitz. Seven members of the Junior Alpine Club were in the party, one of whom was the excitable Miss Jemima. On her return, she wrote a spirited account of the visit, waxing eloquent about the Swiss countryside and recommending that ladies go mountaineering in crinolines!

Written for the club, Miss Jemima’s Swiss Journal didn’t reach the general public until a copy was found in a tin box in a bombed-out warehouse at the end of World War II and published in 1963, exactly a century after her visit, complete with photographs and maps of the era, including this picture, which speaks eloquently of the determination of the tourists.

Crossing Chamonix’s crevasse-ridden, 7,800ft Mer de Glace glacier in stiff corsets and flowery hats was certainly no joke. Modern tourism owes everything to them.

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