Exactly 90 years ago this month, Arthur Tauck Sr. rented a Studebaker. He brought 6 strangers on a 1,100-mile sales trip through the Berkshires, Adirondacks and Catskills. (He was selling his invention: a coin tray for banks that’s still used today. That’s a whole other story.)
It was the 1st “escorted motor tour” in history. That month, a new industry was born.
“Tauck Tours” soon expanded. Arthur Sr. ran motor coach trips to the Poconos, Nova Scotia, Virginia, Niagara Falls and Ontario.
The young company used guts and creativity to weather the Depression. They launched a special tour to the 1933 Chicago Exposition, then added a Florida cruise and Gaspé Peninsula trip.
Big ads for new tours ran in East Coast newspapers on a fateful Sunday: December 7, 1941. World War II ended those plans, but in 1947 Tauck Tours roared back.
Arthur Tauck Jr. took the helm in 1958. Soon, the company won a key legal battle in the Supreme Court. The coast was clear for private air charter services — and once again, Tauck Tours led the way.
In the 1960s, Tauck expanded westward. They won the right to host guests at National Parks hotels; linked the Canadian Rockies to the West Coast by motor coach; added Hawaii itineraries, and introduced helicopter sightseeing.
In the 1970s, the company moved its headquarters from New York City to Westport. The first tiny office on Wilton Road, across from Save the Children, grew several times. They added space at the Vigilant Firehouse (now Neat) across the street; the Mews office complex across from Compo Shopping Center, then consolidated everyone on Post Road West.
During the ’80s, when the classic “Fall Foliage” tours were done, tour directors came to Arthur Jr.’s and other family members’ Westport houses to unwind and debrief. For 5 straight weeks, this town was Tauck Tours’ home away from home.
As the 3rd generation — Peter, Robin and Chuck — emerged as leaders, Tauck Tours went global. There were “Yellow Roads of Europe” tours; small ship and European riverboat cruises, and land tours in the South Pacific, Central America, China and Southeast Asia.
The Tauck family also spearheaded the restoration of the Inn at National Hall — and donated the old-fashioned streetlights lining the nearby Post Road bridge.
Moving just across the Norwalk border to the Norden complex, Tauck continued to grow and innovate. Trips with a service component; one-of-a-kind special events; intergenerational tours; tie-ins with Ken Burns and BBC Earth, plus new itineraries in Africa, India, South America, Antarctica (soon: Cuba) — all beckon younger, adventure-oriented travelers.
Tauck has done it without losing the personal touch of that first Studebaker tour. The number of repeat guests is the envy of the industry. Recently, the company was named one of the best places in Connecticut to work.
Tauck celebrates 90 years today, with a company-wide party.
They’ve also flown in 20 former tour directors — folks who remember the New England touring days, and parties here — for a gala get-together tomorrow. It’s at Arthur Jr.’s house, of course — not far from where Robin and Chuck live.
Tauck hosts hundreds of thousands of guests, and boasts 500 employees. But it’s still a family business.
And its heart is still in Westport.
BONUS FEATURE: Click below to see Arthur Tauck Jr. talk about the founding of the company: