James C. Booth papers

Biographical and Historical Notes

James Curtis Booth was born in Philadelphia on July 28, 1810. He was the son of George Booth, formerly of New Castle, Delaware, and Ann Bolton Booth, originally from Chestertown, Maryland. James Booth attended public schools in Philadelphia and graduated from Hartsville Seminary in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In 1825, he enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania to study chemistry and mineralogy. Following his graduation in 1829, Booth entered Rensselaer Institute in Troy, New York.

Booth taught chemistry during the winter of 1831-1832, in Flushing, New York, and in December, 1832, traveled to Kassel, Germany, to study analytical chemistry under Professor Friedrich Wöhler. In 1834, he traveled to Berlin to study under Gustav Magnus, and the following year spent time in Vienna, and in England where he visited numerous chemical industries. Booth returned to Philadelphia around 1836.

Upon his return to the Unites States, Booth set up a commercial chemistry laboratory in Ambler, Pennsylvania. Booth offered chemical analyses and also provided practical training to chemistry students. In 1836, Booth accepted a teaching position at the Franklin Institute and obtained a position as assistant to Henry D. Rogers, a well-known early geologist, who established the first official geological survey of Pennsylvania. Booth participated in that initial survey.

Upon his return to the Unites States, Booth set up a commercial chemistry laboratory in Ambler, Pennsylvania. Booth offered chemical analyses and also provided practical training to chemistry students. In 1836, Booth accepted a teaching position at the Franklin Institute and obtained a position as assistant to Henry D. Rogers, a well-known early geologist, who established the first official geological survey of Pennsylvania. Booth participated in that initial survey.

In 1837, the state of Delaware passed legislation to initiate a geological survey and on June 1, 1837, James C. Booth was appointed Delaware state geologist. Booth completed his survey by 1841 and published his Memoir on the Geological Survey of Delaware that same year. Upon completion of his survey, Booth returned to his career as a chemist and teacher. Booth held teaching positions at the Franklin Institute (1836-1845), the Philadelphia Central High School (1842-1845), and was Professor of Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania (1851-1855). In 1849, Booth was named Melter and Refiner at the U. S. Mint in Philadelphia, a position he retained until the end of his life.

James C. Booth was a prominent member of a number of professional organizations, including the American Philosophical Society, the Academy of Natural Sciences, and the American Chemical Society. Booth served as president of the American Chemical Society from 1883-1884. Booth was the author of numerous papers and reports particularly in the field of chemistry. His published books include the above-mentioned Memoir of the Geological Survey of the State of Delaware (1841), and with Cambell Morfit, Martin H. Boyé, and R. S. McCulloh, he wrote an Encyclopedia of Chemistry, Practical and Theoretical (1850). Booth also edited a translation of Victor Regnault's Elements of Chemistry (1852).

In 1853, James Booth married Margaret M. Cardoza. Margaret Booth was commonly known as "Rettie," and she and Booth were the parents of three daughters: Laurette, Margaret, and Ann. James C. Booth died in Haverford, Pennsylvania, on March 21, 1888.

Sources

Pickett, Thomas E. "Preface" to James C. Booth and the First Delaware Geological Survey [Newark, De.: Delaware Geological Survey] 1976.

Pickett, Thomas E. "James C. Booth and the First Delaware Geological Survey, 1837-1941," in Two Hundred Years of Geology in America, ed. Cecil J. Schneer (Hanover, N.H.: Published for the University of New Hampshire by the University Press of New England, 1979).

Pickett, Thomas E. "James C. Booth--The Papers of a Nineteenth-Century Chemist-Geologist," Collections (University of Delaware Library Associates) 3 (1988): 20-35.

Scope and Contents

The James C. Booth papers consist of an extensive collection of Booth's personal, professional, and family papers. Included is a large collection of incoming and outgoing correspondence with colleagues in the chemistry and geology professions; substantial correspondence with family members, notably his mother, Ann Bolton Booth, and his wife Margaret M. "Rettie" Booth; and extensive correspondence with and concerning professional and charitable organizations. Booth's work as a chemical consultant and assayer, as well as his work as Chief Melter and Refiner at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, is documented in correspondence and documents. A collection of James Booth's journals and notebooks, including his survey notes taken during the 1838 Delaware Geological Survey, are also present.

James C. Booth's professional correspondents of note include J. H. Alexander, George Anderson, Alexander Dallas Bache, Charles Frederick Chandler, Pliny Earle Chase, Frederick D. Chester, James Dwight Dana, Thomas Egleston, Jr., Charles Goodyear, Frederic Graff, Joseph Henry, Eben Norton Horsford, Joseph P. Lesley, J. Peter Lesley, R. S. McCulloh, Campbell Morfit, Clarence Morfit, Henry Morfit, Charles Morfit, Alexander Ewing Outerbridge, Lucy Peale, T. R. Peale, Edward Sabine Renwick, Benjamin Silliman, William Weightman, and Joseph Wharton.

The Booth papers also include extensive holdings of family papers. Booth's immediate family, including his wife Rettie and their children; his mother, Ann Bolton Booth, and father, George Booth; and various other relatives are represented in correspondence, documents, and other papers. Of particular interest are James Booth's extensive correspondences with his mother, and with his wife Rettie; correspondence and other papers pertaining to the Faber family, to whom Booth was related by marriage; and the literary papers of George Booth, who was a minor poet, essayist, and playwright.