Select Booth Miscellany

Here are some Booth stories and accounts over the years:

The Booths of Dunham Massey

The family of Booth at Dunham Massey were one of the most influential Cheshire families in English history because of the Booth rebellion and the subsequent role played by George Booth in the restoration of King Charles. 

The Booths rose to prominence in the 16th and 17th centuries.  Old George Booth and his grandson, young George Booth, were two of the principal players in this advance.  Old George Booth lived to be eighty, dying in 1652.  He married heiresses and established the family on a firmer financial footing.  His marriage to Elizabeth Carrington brought land southwest of Manchester which linked Dunham to Boothstown.  He built the Elizabethan house at Dunham and made it the family seat. 
Old George outlived his son, who died in 1632, and he was succeeded by his grandson.

Booth's Gin

Gin became popular in England after the Government allowed unlicensed gin and at the same time imposed a heavy duty on all imported spirits.  This created a market for poor-quality grain that was unfit for brewing beer.  Thousands of gin-shops sprung up throughout England.   By 1740 the production of gin had increased to six times that of beer and, because of its cheapness, it became popular with the poor.  Of the 15,000 drinking establishments in London at that time, over half were gin-shops.

By 1843 consumption had risen to the point where on average each man, woman and child in London were drinking more than a liter of gin a week.  Warnings of its evils were illustrated by William Hogarth's famous Gin Lane engraving.  Finally, in 1751, new legislation began to effectively control the sale and production of cheap gin and paved the way for respectable men - such as Alexander Gordon, Charles Tanqueray, James Burrough, and Sir Felix Booth - to start producing quality spirit.

The Booth family of gin distillers were London-based (although they may have originated from Lincolnshire). Their distilleries were at Cow Cross near Smithfield and Brentford.  The latter premises occupied eleven acres of land; had a granary for 15,000 quarters of corn, a bullock-house capable of holding 300 head of cattle, and could produce 800,000 to one million gallons of gin each year.

Booth's gin still uses the same recipe that was devised by Sir Felix Booth.

General William Booth

William Booth was born in Nottingham in 1829 in a terraced house in Sneiton, now preserved as 12 Notintone Place.  His father Samuel Booth, a nail-maker by trade, was unable to come to terms with the world of machines and mass production which had made him redundant.  He tried to set up a number of building companies; but recurring trade recessions ruined him.  "Make money," he said to his son, and he died a bankrupt.

William was eventually to say of him: 

"My father was a grab, a get.  He had been born in poverty.  He determined to grow rich; and he did.  When he lost it all, his heart broke with it and he died miserably."

Life for William and his four sisters growing up was not easy.  His father was stern and unaffectionate. William began his working life as an apprentice pawnbroker.  The daily contact with the poor made him concerned to do something for them.

Charles Booth and Social Cartography

Charles Booth was deeply concerned with the social problems facing those living on the poverty line in London.  He wanted to measure social poverty in three main areas: poverty, industry, and religious influences. 

His Inquiry into Life and Labour in London (1886-1903) ensued.  He recorded the conditions of workers in the city, drawing maps of each area and classifying them with an eight-tiered color-coding system.  People in the black-shaded streets were "Class A," th lowest; while "Class H" were shaded a sunny yellow to match their easy lives as upper-class, servant keeping. 

Believing that the words "Give us this day our daily bread" held a separate meeting for those in extreme poverty, Booth would often take lodgings with working class families for weeks at a time in order to complete his work effectively. 

Richard Booth, An Early Settler in Stratford, Connecticut

Richard Booth was born around 1607 in England.  It is not quite clear where he was born and when he immigrated to America.  One line has linked him to Cheshire; another to Sandwich in Kent; and the county of Derbyshire has also been suggested as his brother-in-law, Joseph Hawley, had come from Parwick in Derbyshire.  Richard Booth married Elizabeth Hawley in Stratford, Connecticut sometime around 1640.

Richard and Elizabeth were one of the founding families of Stratford.   Their house was numbered 29, on Main Street.  Booth was one of those who received land in 1670 in the section known as Nichols' farm (where one branch of his descendants lived for several generations).  Six of his eight children reached maturity, raising large families of their own.  These Booths became influential citizens throughout Connecticut.  Richard Booth himself died around 1688.

Edwin and John Wilkes Booth

Edwin was considered a better actor than Wilkes.  Part was simply experience and part was style.  Edwin preferred the serious brooding roles; while Wilkes went in for the action roles, sometimes jumping from heights as high as ten feet above the stage.

The two brothers also usually travelled different roads. Wilkes performing in the South in cities like Richmond while Edwin acted mainly in the North.   It may have been his time below the Mason Dixon line that pushed Wilkes's sympathies towards the South.

Lincoln, an avid theater-goer, had seen Wilkes perform at least once.  During this performance, one of Lincoln's guests (who told the story) mentioned to Lincoln how, whenever Wilkes playing the villain delivered a particularly threatening line, it looked like he was directing his remarks to the President. 

"He does look like he has it in for me, doesn't it?" Lincoln commented. 

The story goes that Lincoln asked to see Wilkes after the performance; but Wilkes gave him the snub.

A number of witnesses at Ford's theater saw Wilkes walk up and hand his card to the guard who then admitted Wilkes to the President's box.  For years, Wilkes had taken second stage to Edwin.  He was always "the brother of Edwin."  Then, in an instant on April 14, 1865, Edwin was suddenly the brother of Wilkes.

JR Booth, Lumber Baron

JR Booth started off as a relatively uneducated carpenter in Quebec who built bridges and a sawmill for someone else prior to setting up a shingle business which burned shortly thereafter.  He then took a lease on a small sawmill. 

His first big break came when he got the contract to provide the timber for the Canadian parliament buildings in Ottawa.  His second break came when he acquired, at a very reasonable price, 250 square miles of prime forest in Algonquin Park.  Booth harvested this Egan property for fifty years, often going there in his private rail car and working with his men during the day and on business most of the night.  He seldom slept for more than a few hours.

Booth was a remarkable man for many reasons, including his longevity, his wealth, his independence and his bold and innovative approach to business.  He had the largest business in the British Commonwealth run by one man when he finally incorporated in 1921 at the age of ninety-four.  He died in 1925 in his ninety-ninth year.

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