Booth, Charles (1840-1916) and Mary Catherine (1847-1939)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The correspondence in this collection is largely concerned with domestic and personal details of the lives of the Macaulay and Booth families. There are some letters, particularly between Charles and Alfred Booth that relate to the business of their Company. The covering dates of the papers are 1799 to 1967. Most of the Macaulay papers fall within the years 1800-1850 and most of the Booth papers fall within 1860-1916. The collection contains items of correspondence from 359 identified people. The letters were sent by and sent to members of the Macaulay (mainly between 1800 and 1850) and Booth (mainly between 1860 and 1916) families and cover a multitude of different subjects. The miscellaneous papers comprising the second part of the collection includes family deeds, indentures, genealogical information, newspaper cuttings, and fragments and copies of further correspondence. The papers also include: a retrospectively compiled diary of Hester Emily Booth (Charles Booth's sister), dated 1842-1905; notes and drafts of essays by Charles Booth relating to religious questions, political economy, social welfare, Irish land laws and Home Rule, and Life and Labour ; obituaries of Charles Booth; drafts of essays and novels by Mary Catherine Booth; papers relating to the Thringstone Trust, founded by Charles Booth in 1911; travel diaries by Charles Booth, 1862; and sketches and drawings made by Charles Booth, 1852-1884. There are also fourteen family photographs and negatives. The collection also contains seven volumes of a family magazine, The Colony , that aimed to represent high-standards of social conscience and discussed issues such as universal suffrage and religion, 1866-1871.

Administrative / Biographical History

Charles James Booth was born the son of a Merseyside coal merchant on 30 March 1840. He was educated at the Royal Liverpool Institution and became apprenticed to a trading company, Lamport and Holt. Charles went on to set up a steamship company trading between Liverpool and Northern Brazil. Beyond his commercial aspirations, Charles wished to do something for the under-privileged of Victorian England and he joined the Birmingham Education League, founded to promote secular education.

Charles married Mary Catherine Macaulay (1843-1939), on 29 April 1871. Charles decided to move the merchandising arm of Alfred Booth and Company, the family firm, to London and extended his trade in leather to New York where he spent three months of each year. These long voyages led to the daily correspondence between Charles and Mary. Mary, by this time, was a partner in the company in all but name.

In 1884, Charles assisted in the analysis of statistics for the allocation of the Lord Mayor's Relief Fund and attempted to establish a Board of Statistical Research. In Spring 1886 he presented a paper, The Occupation's of the People of London, 1841-1881 , to the Royal Statistical Society. Mary helped her husband in his 'Inquiry' into poverty in London. She was also associated with a circle of intellectual women, many of whose husbands were MPs. In April 1889, Charles' first work, Volume 1 of the Poverty Series of Life and Labour of the People of London: Trades of East London , was published. The survey of Central and South London followed in volume 2, published in May 1891, while all the time Charles was involved in commerce and social science.

Charles was made President of the Statistical Society in 1892 and set about researching for a survey into the condition of industry in England and its impact on poverty. This was followed in 1899 by an investigation into old age pensions and The Aged Poor . In 1912, Charles ceded the chairmanship of Alfred Booth & Company to his nephew. On 23 November 1916, following a stroke, Charles died. A memorial to Charles Booth was erected in the crypt of St. Paul's Cathedral on 15 December 1920.

Conditions Governing Access

Access to the items in the collection is unrestricted for the purpose of private study and personal research within the controlled environment and restrictions of the Library's Palaeography Room. Access to archive collections may be restricted under the Freedom of Information Act. Please contact the University Archivist for details.

Other Finding Aids

T.D. Rogers and H.M. Young, A hand-list of the personal correspondence of Charles Booth and Mary Catherine Booth and their family (together with some Macaulay letters) in the University of London Library (MS. 797) , University of London (1973)

H.M. Young, A hand-list of the personal correspondence of Charles Booth and Mary Catherine Booth and their family (together with some Macaulay letters) in the University of London Library (MS. 797) - A Supplement , University of London (1975)

Archivist's Note

Conditions Governing Use

Access to this collection is unrestricted for the purpose of private study and personal research within the supervised environment and restrictions of the Library's Palaeography Room.