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Arthur Tauck’s Memories of the
Road Trip that Launched a New Industry

Posted by Arthur Tauck Jr on 7/9/2015
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: Ken Burns, New England, Tauck, Travel, USA, tradition, history

firsttourNo matter how often I tell the story of the first Tauck tour, I find myself chuckling at the image of my travelling salesman father, born Arthur Tauchnitz, taking my grandmother Theresa, my sister Meredith, a Bristol-Myers employee who heard about the trip from my mother, a worker at Prudential who was recruited by another of our relatives who worked there, and the mailman from Irvington, on a 6-night road trip through New England over 900+ miles of bumpy, dusty dirt roads. It was a good thing he had rented a 1924 Studebaker for the drive because of their reputation for power, reliability, and ability to withstand hard use and bad roads. Because a road trip back then, with no infrastructure, no comfortable coaches, few paved roads, even fewer roadside amenities and no air conditioning, was nothing like any of us are used to today!

And even though that first Tauck tour took place in a very different time, some 90 years ago this week on July 12, 1925, there are quite a few things that haven’t changed… and they are still at the heart of every Tauck trip in our company today!

arthurtauckBut let me back up a moment and share some of my father’s early background with you. Arthur C. Tauchnitz was born on June 8, 1898, in Yonkers, New York. My grandfather, Hermann Tauchnitz, emigrated from Germany to the United States through Ellis Island. His company Tauchnitz Printers had made publishing history in Germany on two fronts: the first for printing books in English which was practically illegal at that time; and the second for inventing the first paperback books for people who could not afford hardcover reading material. It’s curious to think that even then, our family was daring to do things differently and make things of value more accessible to people who appreciated them.

Innovation, my father used to tell me, was key to Tauchnitz Printers’ success, and as it turns out, began a long held Tauck tradition that’s still very much alive in our family today. My father passed down other inherited traits through the generations: persistence, a passion for adventure, a dogged refusal to accept defeat and a determination to always do right by the people you meet. These character traits laid the foundation for three generations to come and are inherent in our company culture.

My father hated school. He was an incorrigible truant, caught and brought back to the principal’s office time and time again to be punished, but to no avail. The lure of the fish jumping in the river and the sense of freedom he felt lying on his back in the grass enjoying blue skies were just too strong. You know the feeling, it’s a lot like what we find when we travel somewhere. It’s the magic of being present in the moment and experiencing the wows of discovery. It never gets old.

bankSo it’s not surprising that after working as a bank teller in the 1920s, my father hit the road and made travelling his profession, first as a salesman of the aluminum coin trays he invented, then as a tour guide. Of course, there’s a story behind this turn of events too and it had a lot to do with my father’s ability to turn a calamitous event into an opportunity and reinvent a better way of doing things. You can hear more about that in the video, Tauck, An American Story, narrated by our good friend and partner Ken Burns.
 
How he loved life on the road. The social aspects of his business trips, the connections he formed with clients and innkeepers, energized him and drove him to search out new horizons. He would seek out a great little inn or hotel to stay for the night, and if he liked it well enough and it met with his expectations for quality, location, ambiance and service, he would return again and again. He took customer service very seriously and we still do as a company today! He relished being welcomed back by the innkeepers, now friends, along his familiar route. Their doors were always open to him, just as they are to Tauck now with our long-time hotels and suppliers.

My father was endlessly inquisitive and always excited to see what lay around the next bend, to stop and take in the scenery he found so beautiful. As he looked around during those business trips, he realized that the only other travellers he encountered were businessmen like himself. Why weren’t there any other casual visitors admiring this amazing scenery he wondered. He concluded, correctly as it turned out, that visitors simply did not know the area well enough to travel without guidance.  

And that’s when that entrepreneurial light bulb went off in his head again.

firstbrochureWhen he was on the road as a salesman driving through New England, he found that people were being ripped off. They didn't know where to stay. But he did and he felt that he could show them things they couldn’t find on their own. He intuitively sensed that leisure travellers would sign on for a travel adventure if they had a knowledgeable guide. This guide would provide for their comfort and show them the sights in places where they wouldn’t normally go on their own. Then he went one step further. He decided to create the ideal holiday by taking complete charge of travellers’ needs, from transportation to every facet of the trip, and including it in one upfront cost, with no rip-offs or added expenses! And he would be their guide! While seeing America as a tourist was not a new idea, his concept of an all-inclusive holiday with a travel tour company was revolutionary.

He placed his first small classified ad in the Newark Evening News, advertising a six-day tour with everything included for $69. He was going to take people with him on his next selling trip. My mother told her co-workers at Bristol-Myers about the trip and another relative spread the word at Prudential.

brochureDad put his mettle to the pedal on July 12, 1925 in a rented 7-passenger Studebaker touring car that he gassed up and readied for the road. With summer in full swing, he launched a packaged motor tour that would take those first guests on a 1,000-mile road trip on mostly dirt roads that would cover the Mohawk Trail and the Berkshire, Adirondack and Catskill mountains as he continued selling his coin trays to banks along the way. He personally drove them off the highways on to scenic byways and backcountry roads of clay, regaling them with spirited commentary and personal stories about the towns they passed through, the sights they saw and the people they met on their travels. Dad was quite the storyteller and people were enthralled with his spirit for adventure – and his stories! He did it as a lark; he was just a kid. But he had so many letters from the friends of those people that he ran three such trips the next year and then he got so many letters he bought a bus, legally changed his name from Tauchnitz to Tauck – it was easier to pronounce and remember, it projected the image of fun and relaxation for his trips and it could fit on the side of a motor coach — and that was really the beginning of the Tauck travel tour company.
 
What he asked for in return was “a congenial party. I want no grouches or pessimists. At the end of the week, we have all had a wonderful time… I will be satisfied if you are.”
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For years thereafter, he designed every tour, wrote the brochures and drove touring vehicles to New England and eventually led arduous expeditions to Nova Scotia in 1927. Nova Scotia was beautiful, but very isolated, with roads that were little more than ruts across the fields. The poor conditions didn't seem to bother his guests. It only added to their sense of adventure, perhaps fostered by my father’s own enthusiastic attitude. My father believed in a personal approach. He bonded with his guests and fostered many lasting relationships. Satisfied customers led to 75% repeat business in the 1920s and word spread favorably for Tauck Tours. And you know, my father was well known as a party guy, so his promise of fun for all was another great draw!

As I look back on that first trip on July 12, 1925, I am reminded how much my father’s vision still shapes our company 90 years later. It’s the wows our guests experience on the road, in the stories, the scenery, the service and the camaraderie, that keep them coming back and telling their friends about us. It’s our ability to expertly guide them and introduce them to people and places they wouldn’t have known how to experience on their own that makes them want to travel with us. The thing that I learned most from my dad’s teachings was you don’t put up with anything that’s second best. If you’re making people’s dreams come true, you have to do things right. And if you do things right, you can be successful.

90thThat’s the essence of what my father did on that very first tour for his first six guests. And from there, his dreams and our family business took off. Is it magic that happened? I don't know. I think you have to keep on innovating, just like my father did, and you have to persevere, be willing to take a chance and do something different. Since 1925, we’ve always come up with something new, something that still wows our guests.

That speaks volumes for the power of one person and one great idea to change people’s lives forever. Thanks Pappy!
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