Booth, Henry 1788-1869, railway projector, was the son of Thomas Booth, a Liverpool corn merchant, and was born in Rodney Street, Liverpool, on 4 April 1788. He was privately educated at Gateacre, near Liverpool, and then for some time was engaged in his father's office. He afterwards carried on business on his own account as a corn merchant, but with no great success, till in 1822 he found his proper sphere when the scheme to make a railway between Liverpool and Manchester was brought before the public. Of this scheme he was one of the chief promoters, and acted as honorary secretary to the committee; he also wrote the prospectus of the new line, and a great number of reports, &c., connected with it. In 1825 the bill came before parliament. It was thrown out after a costly struggle. Next year it was carried, and Booth was appointed secretary and treasurer of the company. He was also managing director, and took an active part in the construction of the line, which was begun in June 1826 and finished in 1830. It was mainly due to him that steam locomotive engines were fixed upon as the working power of the railway, and that his friend George Stephenson was successful in the famous competition which the directors held at Rainshill in October 1829. It was, says Robert Stephenson, in conjunction with Mr. Booth that my father constructed the Rocket engine which obtained the prize at the celebrated competition which took place a little prior to the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester railway (Smiles, Lives of the Engineers, 1862, vol. iii. appendix, p. 495). To Booth is due the suggestion of a multitubular boiler, which gave a very large and effective heating surface (see his letter quoted, with remarks, in Smiles's Life of George and Robert Stephenson, 1868, p. 320 et seq.). Booth had indeed a remarkable mechanical genius; also to him are due the coupling screws, spring buffers, and lubricating material for carriage axles, all of which are still in use on our railways
When, in 1846, the London and North-Western Railway Company was formed from a union of various companies, Booth was appointed secretary for the northern section, and in October 1848 he was chosen a director. He retired from office on 18 May 1859, after being presented (9 April 1859) with 5,000 guineas by the company as a token of gratitude for valuable and faithful service. He spent the remainder of his life in his native town, where for some years he acted as a borough magistrate. He died at his residence, Eastbourne, Princes Park, Liverpool, on 28 March 1869. His wife, the eldest daughter of Abraham Crompton, of Chorley Hall, whom he had married on 27 Aug. 1812, three daughters, and one son, survived him
In religion Booth was a unitarian, and in politics a moderate liberal. His friend Professor W. B. Hodgson, of Edinburgh, describes him as a grave, reserved, reticent, somewhat even stern man, above all things just and truthful, and of rare consistency, thoroughness, and trustworthiness. He was an indefatigable worker, never idle and never hurried, and was the main agent in the organising of the vast railway system that during his active lifetime spread over the United Kingdom
Booth wrote: 1. Rationale of the Currency Question (1847), in which he defended the principle of Peel's Banking Act of 1844, considering it defective, not on account of what it has done, but on account of what it has left undone, and so was led to suggest additional precautions to avoid or mitigate commercial panics. 2. Case of the Railways considered (1852). 3. A Letter to Lord Campbell on the 9th and 10th Vict. cap. 93 (1854), in which he vigorously protested against Lord Campbell's act of 1846 rendering railway companies pecuniarily liable for loss of life caused in accidents on their lines. He declared that the great sufferers by the establishment of railways are the railway companies. To the public they have been very nearly universal gain, and yet they were made subject to the losses occasioned by the operation of this act, which was made still worse by the manner in which juries interpreted it. He specially objected to the principle that those who paid the same fare should have a varying value, according to their position, put upon their lives. Bishops, he remarks, with some humour, appointed prior to 1st January 1848, are absolutely dangerous, and must rank in the same category with lucifer matches, and as for my lords of Canterbury and York, or C. J. London, they must be regarded altogether as prohibited articles. 4. Moral Capability (1814). 5. An Account of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway (Liverpool, 1830). 6. Free Trade as it affects the People, and A Reformed Parliament (Liverpool and London, 1833). 7. Letter to His Majesty's Commissioners on Railways in Ireland (1836, unpublished, but described in Memoir. It urged the advisability of following one great plan in constructing the national railroads). 8. Observations on the Force of the Wind and the Resistance of the Air (Liverpool, 1839). 9. Uniformity of Time considered especially in reference to Railways and the Electric Telegraph (1847). 10. Master and Man, a dialogue, in which are discussed some of the important questions affecting the Social Condition of the Industrious Classes (1853). 11. A Letter on the Approaches to St. George's Hall (Liverpool, 1857). 12. Taxation, direct and indirect, in reply to the Report of the Financial Reform Association (1860), an argument against a system of entirely direct taxation. 13. The Struggle for Existence, a Lecture (London and Liverpool, 1861). 14. Considerations on the Licensing Question (Liverpool, 1862). 15. The Question of Comparative Punishments considered in reference to Offences against the Person as compared with Offences against the Pocket, with some observations on Prison Discipline (Liverpool, 1863). 16. A pamphlet on Atlantic Steam Navigation
Booth was also the author of fugitive contributions to newspapers. It may be stated that those of his works dealing with special economic subjects are written in accordance with the doctrine of the orthodox laissez-faire school.
Memoir of the late Henry Booth by Robert Smiles, with letter from Professor Hodgson (1869)
Supplement to Liverpool Daily Post (30 March 1869).
Contributor: F. W-t. [Francis Watt]