“The Warning Came at About 10 P.M.” The Birth of George Booth

September 24 is the birthday of Cranbrook’s co-founder George Gough Booth. Trying to decide how best to commemorate his 157th birthday, I landed on the idea of sharing the story of the day he came into the world.

Portrait of George when he was around twelve years old. Photographer W. E. Lindop, Elgin Gallery, St. Thomas, Ontario. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

In 1864, Henry Wood Booth and Clara Louise Irene Gagnier Booth were living in Canada. Clara had already given birth to three children: Charles, Alice, and Grace. Baby Grace had, unfortunately, died at seven months. Clara would go on to have six more children—Edmund, Theodora, Adelaide, Ralph, Roland, and Bertha—for a total of nine children to live past infancy.

Clara Louise Irene Gagnier Booth in 1857. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.
Henry Wood Booth in 1862. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

George Gough Booth arrived on September 24, 1864, at 8 Magill (now McGill) Street in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Henry Wood Booth recalled that George was, “Born in the house at the East end of row on the South side of Magill St. about the middle of the block from Younge St. at 11.30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24, 1864.”

The terrace house at No. 8 Magill Street, the birthplace of George G. Booth in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, as it looked in 1902. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

In a missive written much later about the night of George’s birth, Henry recalled “the time when, on opening the front door, I heard your sonorous voice for the first time, while your grandmother, coming down the stairs, assured me ‘it’s a fine boy.’”

But why was Henry out so late on the night George was born? Shouldn’t he have been home with Clara?

Henry Wood Booth’s recollection of the birth of George Gough Booth in 1864. George Gough Booth (1864-1949) Papers (1981-01), Box 1 Folder 1, Cranbrook Archives.

Distraught during Clara’s labor—”The warning came at about 10 p.m.” Henry recalled—the father-to-be was ushered out of the house to get help. His first stop was the home of Mrs. Cavie, across Magill Street, “who was in bed but promised to ‘dress and go over at once,’ which she did.” Henry then ran to Mother Gagnier’s house. She lived a mile away. “She also promised to go at once, and did.”

His final stop was the home of Dr. James Ross, who lived almost three miles away. Dr. Ross, however, took his time, dressing while a nervous Henry waited. He regretted waiting for the doctor, “I should have hurried home and told them there that the doctor was coming.”

George, “being a lively one,” commented Henry, “and his mother equal to the task,” had already made his entrance into the world, with the assistance of the experienced Grandmother Gagnier, before the doctor and Henry had reached the house.

George Gough got his first name from his great-grandfather as well as his uncle, both named George Booth. Gough came from two sources. Henry’s grandmother Elizabeth Dann Gough Booth had been a member of the influential Gough family back in England, and Henry’s father’s name was Henry Gough Booth.

In addition, Henry and Clara enjoyed the work of the famous temperance orator John Gough. Henry had once heard Gough lecture in 1849, where Henry signed “the pledge” to stop drinking, and became a champion of temperance. The Booths sought to dedicate George to “the sacred cause of temperance” and thought the strong middle name would help.

George Gough Booth did maintain a temperate life, so Henry and Clara’s goal was achieved.

Another thing Henry and Clara passed on to their son George: a tradition of honoring the family ancestry through names:

  • George’s second son’s name was Warren, his wife Ellen Scripps Booth’s middle name
  • His first daughter was named Grace Ellen, after his sister who died in infancy and his wife
  • His youngest son was named Henry after his father, grandfather, and a long line of Henrys before him
  • His youngest daughter Florence’s middle name was Louise, his mother’s middle name
  • All three of his sons’ middle names were Scripps, his wife’s maiden name
Ellen Scripps Booth and George Gough Booth with their children on their 50th wedding anniversary in 1937. The Booths are, from front row, from left: James Scripps, Henry Scripps, Warren Scripps. Second row from left: Ellen Scripps, George Gough, Grace Ellen, Florence Louise. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

And George and Ellen’s home, estate, and community they founded was, of course, named for the town in Kent, England, where Henry Wood Booth was born: Cranbrook.

And with that, I’d like to wish a very Happy Birthday, Mr. Booth!

Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

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A Portrait Comes Home to Cranbrook House

The portrait of Clara Gagnier Booth, mother of Cranbrook founder George Gough Booth, has been mounted in the Oak Room at Cranbrook House. This painting is on long-term loan to Cranbrook from the Saginaw Art Museum, which acquired the painting through a donation from Clara Booth’s grandson, John Lord Booth I.

Perelma_Image

Conservation in-progress, April 2013 by Kenneth B. Katz, Conservation and Museum Services.

After receiving conservation treatment and a new frame, this painting of Clara Booth will accompany that of her husband, Henry Wood Booth, as well as their son George, his wife Ellen Scripps Booth, and Ellen’s father James Edmund Scripps. Financial support from John Lord Booth II affords this opportunity to join the painting of the Booth family matriarch with those of her relatives at Cranbrook House.

The artwork was painted in 1918 by Russian-born artist Ossip Perelma, known particularly for his portraits of men of stature such as President Woodrow Wilson, King Albert I of Belgium, and several Russian and French political officials. Perelma also executed the stately portrait of Henry Wood Booth, currently on view in the Oak Room.

Demure in size and executed with soft and fluid brush strokes, Clara Booth’s portrait contrasts with that of her husband. While Henry is depicted in full length in an outdoor background, his wife is shown only by profile, with just the upper half of her torso included in the composition. The stylistic distinction between Clara’s portrait and that of her husband—and indeed many of Perelma’s other subjects—emphasizes the differing approach Perelma took to depicting a woman.

In the early twentieth century, even women of position, beauty, and culture were often removed from public view after their role as wife and mother was fulfilled, and their youth had faded. This portrait was painted when Clara Booth was 79, and it is notable that Perelma chose not to conceal his subject’s age. Indeed, the portrait is a rare and significant example of art providing legitimacy and prestige to a woman who remained elegant and strong as she reached an age when most women no longer had a public presence or were being immortalized by artists.

Both portraits, Clara Gagnier Booth and Henry Wood Booth, will be available for viewing when Cranbrook House opens for public tours on Sunday June 14th! For more information on the tours check out the Cranbrook House & Gardens Auxillary website.

Stefanie Dlugosz-Acton, Collections Fellow, Center for Collections and Research

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