The Travelers Aid movement actually began in 1851, when Bryan Mullanphy, a former mayor of St. Louis and philanthropist, bequeathed $500,000 to the city of St. Louis to be used to assist “bona fide travelers heading west,” primarily women and children traveling alone.
The Travelers Aid Society of New York was founded in 1907 by Grace Hoadley Dodge. The organization’s primary purpose was to provide social work to women traveling alone in order to protect them from moral danger, specifically white slave trafficking.
The Travelers Aid Society of Washington (D.C.) was founded in 1913 by the YWCA and began assisting travelers at the relatively new Union Station. Travelers Aid volunteers were at Union Station in March 1913 to help visitors navigate the city for the first inauguration of Woodrow Wilson.
The first National Travelers Aid Association was founded in 1917, created to serve all people regardless of gender, age, class, race or religion. Travelers Aid welcomed immigrants to the United States, with operations at or near many ports of entry.
In 1941, just prior to World War II, President Roosevelt called on the National Travelers Aid Association and five other national organizations to form one entity charged with boosting U.S. military morale. And the USO was born.
When the federal government opened the new Washington National Airport in 1941, the USO was an established presence there. In 1947, after World War II was over, the Travelers Aid Society of Washington took over the USO responsibilities at the facility.
In 1957, Travelers Aid opened its first information booth at what was then known as Idlewood International Airport, renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport in 1964 following the 35th president’s assassination in 1963.
The Travelers Aid program at Washington Dulles was launched in 1963, with one desk on the Baggage Claim level. The program now has 14 locations, making it one of the busiest airport programs run by Travelers Aid International.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, seeing a need to improve its customer service at Newark International Airport, instituted a Travelers Aid Program there in 1992.
Travelers Aid began operating at Bradley International Airport in October 2018 with a group of 40 dedicated senior volunteers. The program now includes students, young professionals and working adults, and now numbers 65 volunteers.
The History of Travelers Aid at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
The Travelers Aid Society of Washington was founded in 1912. The Travelers Aid program at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport began in 1941 as part of the new United Service Organizations, better known as the USO.
Just as the federal government opened the new National Airport on the Virginia shores of the Potomac River in 1941, the USO was there.
In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt invited Mary Ingraham, then president of the national Young Women’s Christian Association, to form a group to provide morale and recreation services to U.S. military personnel.This request brought together six civilian organizations: the YWCA, National Travelers Aid Association, Salvation Army, Young Men’s Christian Association, National Catholic Community Service, and the National Jewish Welfare Board. They were brought together under one umbrella, USO, to support U.S. troops.
In 1947, after the war was over, the Travelers Aid Society of Washington took over the USO responsibilities at National Airport.
With the opening of the new Terminals B and C in 1997, the volunteer program doubled in size and has continued to grow and thrive. Volunteers and staff were on duty through the pandemic years when travel reached a low point. In 2022 more than 150 volunteers are on duty to serve visitors to our airport.
On November 9, 2021, two new security checkpoints opened to serve Terminals B and C. On June 5, Reagan National renumbered the terminals and gates to better reflect the airport patterns. Terminal A is now Terminal 1 and Terminals B and C are now Terminal 2.