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James Scripps and John McLaughlin Booth Papers

 Collection
Identifier: 1990-14

Collection Scope

SERIES I. James Scripps Booth (1899-1989) contains an autobiographical manuscript, an edited biographical manuscript of George Gough Booth, manuscripts of Jean McLaughlin Booth's works, correspondence, clippings, designs, blueprints, sketches, photographs, photographic prints and negatives, catalogs, diaries and books.

SERIES II. John McLaughlin Booth (1966-1981) contains correspondence, meeting minutes, reports and printed materials of the Cranbrook Art Academy.

III. Publications (1830-1975) contains a small collection of news paper clippings and magazine articles.

IV. Memorabilia (undated) includes metal artifacts relating to automobiles, including a brass plate from the Biautogo.

V. Artwork contains matted and unmatted drawings, oil paintings, graphic designs for posters, paintings, theatrical set designs and illustrations.

Dates

  • 1907 - 1980

Creator

Access

Access to the collection is unrestricted.

Use

Permission to use collection materials must be requested in writing.

History

James Scripps Booth, an automobile designer, artist, and philosopher was the eldest son of George Gough Booth and Ellen Scripps Booth born May 31, 1888 in the Trumbull Avenue home of his grandfather James Edmund Scripps, founder and publisher of the Detroit Evening News. Educated briefly at Detroit University School and St. Luke's School for Boys in Wayne, Pennsylvania, Booth left school in the tenth grade and taught himself the basics of automobile mechanics by systematically dismantling and reassembling the family's 1904 Winston. By 1908 Booth had made the preliminary sketches of a two wheeled belt-driven vehicle, the Bi-Autogo.

While employed at the Detroit Evening News he developed his writing skills, broadened his automotive background, and refined his art techniques. In 1910 Hupp Motor Company hired Booth to write and illustrate their automotive catalogs and instruction manuals.

Following his 1910 marriage to Jean Alice McLaughlin, the Booth family-- with an entourage of nurse, chauffeur and two automobiles-- embarked on a Grand Tour of Europe. The young couple returned to Paris, James to study painting with Myron Barlow, and Jean to write.

Returning to the United States James obtained $25,000 from his father and built a prototype of the Bi-Autogo. In 1913 Booth, uncle William J. Scripps and John Batterman formed the Scripps-Booth Cyclecar Company, manufacturers of small, belt-driven vehicles, the JB Rocket and the Packet. Reorganizing in 1914, the Scripps-Booth Company introduced a small luxurious car, the JSB, featuring such innovations as a spare wheel and tire, a horn button on the steering wheel, a removable top and an electrical locking system. Conflicting design ideas led to Booth's resignation in 1916. The company was eventually sold to General Motors.

Concentrating on his art, James, his wife Jean, his son John, (born May 28, 1913) and daughter Margaret, (born September 22, 1916) moved to Pasadena, California, where his third child, Ann, was born (December 20, 1917).

Returning to Detroit in 1923, Booth introduced his latest automobile design, the daVinci, an automobile with lowered floor board, hanging foot pedals and a parking brake in the transmission. The Stutz Company expressed interest, but declined to manufacture the car. However, at the New York Auto Show Stutz showed a car so similar to the daVinci that Booth filed a patent infringement suit, eventually winning in 1935.

In the 1930's Booth settled his family in Detroit, established an industrial design/art studio in Indian Village, and assumed responsibilities as a trustee of Brookside School, Cranbrook Foundation and a director of the Cranbrook Academy of Art.

During World War II Booth published General Handbook, Motor Mechanics Simplified: Understand Your Car, used by the American Red Cross in their automotive mechanics classes. His wife Jean died July 31, 1942. On February 20, 1943 he married Ellen Catherine Norlen. Following the deaths of his parents, Ellen Scripps Booth, (January, 1948) and George Gough Booth, (April 1949), Booth edited Cyril Player's biography of his father George Gough Booth of Cranbrook; moved to New Canaan, Connecticut; and published a philosophical book, Adventure in Analysis: A Searching Biblical Commentary. James Scripps Booth died September 13, 1954 at his home in Norwalk, Connecticut.

John McLaughlin Booth, first child of Jean McLaughlin and James Scripps Booth, was born May 28, 1913 in Highland Park, Michigan. A member of the first class (September 1927) of Cranbrook School for Boys, John graduated in June 1933, then attended Wayne State University and the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts.

Between 1941 and 1943 Booth married Carol Lawson, enlisted in the United States Army Air Force, graduated from Officers' Candidate School in Miami, Florida, became the father of his first child, a son, Thomas (1943), and moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado. Booth left the U.S. Army Air Force in 1945 as First Lieutenant. Booth and his wife remained in Colorado after the war and had two more children - Carol (1945) and Nancy (1947). In 1960, the Booth family returned to Birmingham, MI where Booth was associated with various financial institutions, retiring in 1972 from Paine-Webber.

Always interested in art, as a private collector Booth focused on local contemporary artists. Aware of his civic responsibilities he served (1967-1989) as a trustee and governor of the Cranbrook Academy of Art. At the Detroit Institute of Arts he served as both a board member of the Friends of Modern Art and an honorary board member of the Graphic Arts Council. Other memberships included the Detroit Historical Society, the Florida Moorings Club and the Center for the Arts in Vero Beach, Florida. Booth was also a member of Christ Church Cranbrook, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and Trinity Episcopal Church of Vero Beach, Vero Beach, Florida. John McLaughlin Booth died August 25, 1989 in Royal Oak, Michigan.

Extent

8.5 Linear Feet (7 MS, 3 OS)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

James Scripps Booth, an automobile designer, artist, and philosopher was the eldest son of George Gough Booth and Ellen Scripps Booth born May 31, 1888, in the Trumbull Avenue home of his grandfather James Edmund Scripps, founder and publisher of the Detroit Evening News. He built a prototype of the Bi-Autogo and in 1913 Booth, uncle William J. Scripps and John Batterman formed the Scripps-Booth Cyclecar Company, manufacturers of small, belt-driven vehicles, the JB Rocket and the Packet. Reorganizing in 1914, the Scripps-Booth Company introduced a small luxurious car, the JSB, featuring such innovations as a spare wheel and tire, a horn button on the steering wheel, a removable top and an electrical locking system. Conflicting design ideas led to Booth's resignation in 1916. The company was eventually sold to General Motors. James concentrated on his art and automobile design, introducing the daVinci, and establishing an industrial design/art studio in Deroit. He assumed responsibilities as a trustee of Brookside School, Cranbrook Foundation and a director of the Cranbrook Academy of Art. During World War II Booth published the 'General Handbook, Motor Mechanics Simplified: Understand Your Car,' used by the American Red Cross in their automotive mechanics classes. James Scripps Booth died September 13, 1954 at his home in Norwalk, Connecticut. John McLaughlin Booth, first child of Jean McLaughlin and James Scripps Booth, was born May 28, 1913 in Highland Park, Michigan. A private art collector, John served (1967-1989) as a trustee and governor of the Cranbrook Academy of Art. At the Detroit Institute of Arts he served as both a board member of the Friends of Modern Art and an honorary board member of the Graphic Arts Council. John McLaughlin Booth died August 25, 1989 in Royal Oak, Michigan.

The collection is divided into two sections: the collection of James Scripps Booth and the collection of his son, John M. Booth. The collection of James Scripps Booth contains an autobiographical manuscript, an edited biographical manuscript of George Gough Booth, manuscripts of Jean McLaughlin Booth's works, correspondence, clippings, designs, blueprints, sketches, photographs, photographic prints and negatives, catalogs, diaries and books. The collection of John McLaughlin Booth, a Cranbrook Art Academy trustee, contains correspondence, meeting minutes, reports and printed materials of the Cranbrook Art Academy, 1966-1973.

Arrangement

The papers of James Scripps Booth and John McLaughlin Booth are arranged into two sections: the collection of James Scripps Booth and the collection of his son, John M. Booth. There are four series: I. James Scripps Booth (boxes 1-4); II. John McLaughlin Booth (boxes 4-6); III. Publications (boxes 7 and 7A); IV. Memorabilia, and V. Artwork.

Additional Access

The drawings and sketches of James Scripps Booth are catalogued on the Horizon database.

Additional Access

An index to the collection is available.

Custodial History

The personal papers, paintings, and drawings of James Scripps Booth (1888-1954) in the Cranbrook Archives were created and assembled by Mr. Booth during his lifetime. After his death on September 13, 1954 in Norwalk, Connecticut, the ownership of these materials passed to his widow, Ellen Norlen Booth. Mrs. Booth maintained custody of the materials for some time but, owing to the lack of proper storage facilities in her own home, decided to deposit the bulk of her husband's personal papers and many of his drawings, paintings, and sketches, with James' son, John M. Booth, who had ample climate-controlled space for preserving the collection in his residence.

Mrs. Booth also distributed additional drawings, paintings, and sundry personal items belonging to her husband to John and other members of the family, wishing to present them with mementos of James Scripps Booth. With Mrs. Ellen Booth's permission and the assistance of Mr. and Mrs. John M. Booth, Mark Coir transferred the body of the James Scripps Booth Collection from John and Carol Booth's home in Birmingham, Michigan to the Cranbrook Archives in the fall of 1989 and the spring of 1990. In addition to the materials that were given to Cranbrook Archives, documents relating to James Booth's automotive career were donated at the same time to the National Automotive History Collection of the Detroit Public Library.

Acquisition

Gift of Ellen Norlen Booth, with several additions thereafter.

Related Materials

The archives has a collection of four paintings by James S. Booth donated by Marion Bunt (#2000-14).

The Detroit Public Library, Automotive History Archives, has a collection of James Scripps Booth's blueprints, sketches, scrapbooks and paintings.

Bentley Historical Library has the original collection of Warren S. Wilkinson scrapbooks: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/b/bhlead/umich-bhl-93840?view=text

Transfers

There are three over-sized folders in the Archives prep room flat files that contain pastel and watercolor works.

Photographs, negatives, and photograph albums were removed and housed with the Photograph Collection. The glass plate negatives are housed in the storage closet in the Glass Negative Collection.

Drawings: Drawings of boats and cars are cataloged and housed with architectural drawings.

Some books and blueprints have been removed and placed in other Booth family and Cranbrook collections and locations:

Martin Luther Catechism and the Gagnier Family Bible into the Henry Wood Booth Collection.

Cranbrook yearbooks and catalogs in the Cranbrook Schools Collection.

Blueprints of Alura II and Greenwood Cemetery in the reading room flat-file.

Processing History

In July 2002, additional artwork of James Scripps Booth was located in a portfolio. It was inventoried by Leslie S. Edwards and re-housed in an acid-free box. In May 2016, artwork was photographed for cataloging in a collections database, interleaved and re-housed in acid-free folders and boxes by Gina Tecos and Belinda Krencicki.
Title
Guide to the James Scripps and John McLaughlin Booth Papers
Status
Completed
Author
Finding aid written by Leslie S. Edwards
Date
2002
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Edition statement
Resource record created by Laura MacNewman.

Revision Statements

  • 2016: Artwork was photographed for cataloging in a collections database, interleaved and re-housed in acid-free folders and boxes by Gina Tecos and Belinda Krencicki

Repository Details

Part of the Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research Repository

Contact:
39221 Woodward Ave.
P.O. Box 801
Bloomfield Hills MI 48303 US