In 1928, Thomas Winston Briggs, a Memphian, founded the Welcome Wagon Company. From its modest beginnings in the Mid-South, the company grew to become Welcome Wagon International with its corporate headquarters in Memphis and offices in New York, San Francisco, Toronto, Canada and London, England.
Welcome Wagon became a household word throughout the world and its 8,000 Hostesses were a familiar symbol of community service and friendship. The Welcome Wagon Hostesses made more than one million home visits per year welcoming new families to their communities and visiting others during special occasions. These visits were sponsored by 100,000 businesses and included gifts and messages from the sponsors along with helpful information about the community, its services and organizations.
Women always played an important role at Welcome Wagon. A principal leader and guiding force in the development of the company, Executive Vice President, Rosanne Beringer, was second in command of the organization for thirty years. Following the death of Thomas Briggs in 1964, she succeeded Mr. Briggs as Chairman and President and efficiently ran the company until she retired in 1972. Welcome Wagon visits still continue through Welcome Wagon Canada. Welcome Wagon in Canada was founded in 1930 and was led to its present level of success by Pauline Hill, who first became a Hostess in 1953 and advanced to be head of the company as CEO. (1962-1990)
Throughout his life, the interests of the community were always foremost in the mind of Thomas W. Briggs. The needs of the community helped guide his business, the Welcome Wagon Company. “Work first to serve your community, and your business success will follow,” was a theme Briggs often repeated to the people he worked with.
Those ideals were also the basis of the Thomas W. Briggs Foundation which was chartered by Briggs in New York in 1957. He died in 1964 and by the terms of Briggs will, a large portion of his estate was bequeathed to the Thomas W. Briggs Residuary Trust for the benefit of 69 individuals. Most of the beneficiaries were long-standing members of the Welcome Wagon organization and under his will received income for life from the Trust. The will also provided that at the death of a beneficiary, his or her prorated share of the Trust’s assets be transferred to the Foundation, thereby assuring the growth and perpetuation of the Foundation. The foundation moved to Memphis in the 1980’s.
The Foundation Today
The directors of the Thomas W. Briggs Foundation are committed to honoring this legacy in the community. They consider it a privilege and responsibility to continue the community interest Mr. Briggs fostered. Each year, the Foundation makes substantial gifts to numerous institutions and non-profit agencies in the Memphis area.