Object of the Month: August 2020

This month's highlighted object is a locally connected Japanese rickshaw.

Published: 1 August 2020

Chosen by

Ange, Collections Officer at Leicester Museums & Galleries



Object Name

Thomas Cook Rickshaw

Place made


Object information

This two wheeled passenger carriage was acquired by Thomas Cook in Yokohama, Japan in 1872 and shipped to England for his grandchildren to play with. It was subsequently presented to the patients at the Leicester Borough Asylum in 1880 "for their amusement on picnic days" before being acquired by the museum in the 1960s. It was previously on display at Newarke Houses Museum.

Thomas Cook is said to have been enthralled by the ‘wonderful empire of Japan’ and was delighted by the friendly reception his party received when he visited Japan in 1872. Thomas Cook saw the rickshaw as a novel invention and proceeded to purchase two and have them sent home.

Thomas Cook was in Japan as part of round the world tour. ‘Taking a tour round the world was the last great challenge facing Thomas Cook. Such a record-breaking voyage would set the seal on his claim to be the creator of modern tourism. Cook was not a vain man but he was proud of his pioneering achievements. And he would scarcely have been human if he ignored the blandishments of a press that was now tending to compare him to the eighteenth-century circumnavigator whose name he shared.

The Daily News for example, said that Cook was ‘regarded by thousands as a greater man than the Captain, his famous namesake’. For useful though it was to ‘discover Botany Bay, and to cause its adoption as a criminal colony’, to become the means of transporting ‘your honest countrymen and countrywomen to the most elevating scenes and associations in the world, of lifting them out of the dull round of everyday life and of bringing them back heartier, happier and better is a higher and more useful discovery still; and this is the position Cook, the excursion agent, fills today’

Read more about the Thomas Cook in Leicester story on the Story of Leicester website.


(Daily News, 5 Aug. 1869)Brendon, P. 1991, Thomas Cook - 150 years of popular tourism, London: Secker & Warburg