Alfred Booth and Company
Alfred Booth and Company was founded in 1863 by Alfred Booth and his more famous brother, the English philanthropist and poverty reformer, Charles Booth and grew from being a small merchant house into a large international concern.
The merchant house was established primarily for the importing of English light leathers into the USA, and had offices in both Liverpool and New York. The reason this trade was chosen was that the staple trades of Liverpool (e.g. cotton) were already dominated by well established firms. The opportunity for a newcomer was to profit form earnings in a specialised trade. In addition as America was expanding economically due to a rapidly growing population created demand for raw materials which could not be obtained from home-grown sources.
Contracts for the first two ships of The Booth Steamship Company (established in 1881) were placed in February 1865. The value of the ships was divided into sixty-four parts and Alfred Booth and Company as the managing owners took up as many as its resources would allow. The remainder was largely subscribed to by family and relatives. The steamship service operated to North Brazilian ports and they exported sheepskins, tanned and untanned to the United States. On the retirement of Robert Singlehurst the Red Cross Iquitos Steamship Co. was amalgamated with the Booth Steamship Company.
In 1914 the fleet comprised over 30 steamers however many of these were sunk during the First World War so that by 1919 there were only 18 ships left. The last chairman of the company was Richard Amis CBE a grandson of Sir Alfred Booth, 1st Bt, on whose watch the business was finally sold in 1986. Sir Alfred, who served as chairman of Cunard, was a younger brother of Charles, mentioned below. The shipping business was sold in 1946 to Lord Vestey.
Alfred Booth & Company had diversified into civil engineering and in 1919, it acquired The Unit Construction Company from Crittalls. Alfred Booth's baronetcy was succeeded in 1948 by his eldest son, Philip Booth, and in 1960 by Philip's eldest son, Sir Douglas Booth, a screenwriter living in New York City. Today, in 2009, the heir presumptive to the baronetcy, Derek Booth, is a leading academic in the water resources world.
In 1964 after a family split the leather business was established separately as Booth and Company (International) Ltd. It became a public company in 1974 and was sold to Garnar-Scotblair in 1981. John Sebastian Macaulay Booth was the Managing Director during this period. He was the grandson of Charles Booth who died on 23 November 1916.
In 1912, Charles Booth relinquished the chairmanship to his nephew, Charles Booth (born 1868 died 1938) but he later returned to work for the company in 1915.