The Banner Tours

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The Banner Tours

The Banner Tours

In 1936 the famous Banner Tours of the West were inaugurated. They were moved by special trains over 7,000 miles at a cost to the tourists of only about two and one half cents a mile. This covered not only the cost of transportation, but meals, sight-seeing, and numerous other miscellaneous expenses. Four Banner specials left Chicago in the summer of 1936. The following season they went at the rate of one a week, and in 1939 twenty-two trains were sent out carrying 4,600 Baimerites.

While the domestic-travel business was being built up, the foreign side was not neglected. The country gradually recovered from the depression, and the great new superliners, Normandie, Queen Mary, and America, sailed gaily up New York Harbour. Americans began to flock abroad again. Sales of Travellers Cheques bounded up from depression lows, and company offices in New York and Europe began to hum. In 1939 Pan American Airways inaugurated the first passenger plane service to Europe. Those early clippers, lifting heavily into the air from Flushing Bay, were the precursors of a hardly dreamed-of revolution in transatlantic travel.

The highest officials of American Express were actively engaged in promoting its foreign-travel service. Reed, Clarkson, and Selden went through Europe together in 1936 to meet with personnel there and study the problems at first hand. In 1987 Reed and Clarkson sailed on the maiden voyage of the liner Brazil to Rio, where they organized a Brazilian subsidiary company and then went on to Montevideo and Buenos Aires. In Argentina they concluded a deal in partnership with the British express company, Espreso Villalonga, to open nine offices there. From Buenos Aires they crossed the Andes to Peru and returned home on the Grace liner Santa Clara, stopping at all the banana ports. In 1988 Clarkson and Reed made another trip, covering Mexico and a large part of the United States.

However, the growing trend of European travel suffered several rude checks from wars and rumors thereof. Italy's Ethiopian adventure and the ensuing League of Nations embargo caused many expectant Travellers to change their plans, as did the raucous heils of Hitler's legions as they tramped along the fine new military roads of Germany or gathered under the great red and black Nazi banners at Nuremberg.

Then came the autumn of 1938, with the Wehrmacht massed on the Czechoslovakian border and harassed Allied statesmen pleading with Hitler and Mussolini. It was a little like the week before World War I. American Expressmen were frantically trying to care for hordes of tourists who wanted nothing so much as a ticket home.

American Business News in 2015

What next? The Chicago World Fair

The Chicago World Fair

In 1932 Chicago was planning a World's Fair, despite the fact that business was sinking to its low-water mark. White saw the possibilities of giving profitable service and prepared a plan for handling the Fair goers which he presented to a group of railroad executives then meeting in Chicago. "This is what we need," they said.

Ralph Towle hurried over from New York to add his fine salesmanship to the project, and an agreement was concluded with the railroads to handle their tourist traffic to the Fair.

During the dreary winter of the Bank Holiday planning went forward. A new Chicago office was opened on Washington Street. American Express contracted with Chicago hotels for 3,500 rooms a day. Railroad ticket agents all over the country were furnished with prices for tours of the Fair of from two to seven days. These package tours sold from five dollars up.

The technique of the operation was for a railroad ticket agent to sell... see: The Chicago World Fair

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