The origins of the Booth Steamship Company extend back to 1863 when the brothers Alfred and Charles Booth established the partnership of Alfred Booth & Co. with the main purpose of importing English light leather to the U.S.A. In February 1865 the partnership placed contracts for two ships, the Augustine and the Jerome. Charles and Alfred Booth did not own these ships, instead each vessel was owned by a partnership with Alfred Booth & Co. a common partner in each. Alfred and Philip Holt assisted the Booths in these ventures and also acted as partners, holding a number of shares in each vessel. By 1871 the Booths were operating regular services to Northern Brazil along with the Red Cross Line and the Maranham Steamship Co. with whom the Booths shared a friendly rivalry.
The Booth Steamship Co. Ltd. was incorporated on 24 June 1881 with Alfred Booth & Co. having a majority shareholding in the new company. Following the invention of the pneumatic tyre in 1888 Brazilian rubber enjoyed a boom, and by 1900 the Booth Line owned 14 vessels. In 1901 the Red Cross Line and the Booth Steamship Co. amalgamated to form a new company, the Booth Steamship Co. (1901) Ltd. However at an Extraordinary General Meeting held on 21 December 1901 it was unanimously resolved that the name "Booth Steamship Co. Ltd." be adopted. The minute books listed below at 387 BOO/1/1 and 2/1 both bear the name "Booth Steamship Co. (1901) Ltd.". The earlier volume of minutes was destroyed some date before 1966.
Also in 1901 the Booth Iquitos Line was established, and when this was absorbed by the Booth Steamship Co. in 1913 possessed two vessels. In 1902 Alfred Booth & Co. were involved in the establishment of the Manaos Harbour Co., a venture in which they had substantial holdings, and for some time, a controlling interest. (See 387 BOO/5/1-17 below).
In 1903 the Company introduced tours to Lisbon and Madeira, and in connection with these produced a guidebook (see 387 BOO/6/3 below).
During World War I eleven Booth Line vessels were requisitioned by the Government for the war effort and nine of these ships were lost. An account of the Booth Line during World War I can be found in Booth Line: War Service, 1914-1918 (see 387 BOO/8/1 below.) By the end of World War I the Booth Line consisted of 18 vessels, totalling 72,149 tons. The reduced post-war fleet caused a reduction in services, and a general fall off in the Amazon trade saw attempts by the company to diversify its interests. One such move was the introduction of the tourist cruise "1000 Miles Up The Amazon".
During World War II the Booth Line again suffered losses, and in 1946 the parent company, Alfred Booth & Co., which had substantial interests other than shipping, decided to sell the entire shipping concern with its subsidiaries in England, the United States and Brazil. In April 1946 the Vestey Group acquired the Booth Steamship Co. but it continued to function as a separate line.
In April 1955 the Company entered into the West Indian trade, in 1961 a service linking Canada, the West Indies and Brazil was inaugurated and the following year the Gulf Service was introduced.
380 BOO/1. Minutes of General Meetings, 1901-1971, 1 vol.
380 BOO/2. Directors' Minute Books, 1901-1940, 2 vols.
380 BOO/3. Steamers' Voyages, 1866-1943, 21 vols.
380 BOO/4. Ships' Particulars, 1902-1922, 2 vols., 6 folders.
380 BOO/5. Correspondence and Papers relating to the development of Manaos, 1902, 17 docs.
380 BOO/6. Newscuttings, scrapbooks, etc., 1903-1954, 7 vols.
380 BOO/7. Photographs, 1910-1922, 1926, 3 vols.
380 BOO/8. Printed Items, 1921, , 2 vols.
380 BOO/9. Annual Reports, 1902-1945, 1 folder.
380 BOO/10. Papers relating to the Booth Line during World War II, 1939-1946, 2 folders.
380 BOO/11. Papers relating to the formation of the Booth Steamship Co. Ltd., 1888, 1901-1948, 1 folder, 2 vols.
380 BOO/12. Papers relating to the amalgamation of the Red Cross Iquitos Line and the Booth Iquitos Line, 1902-1903, 16 docs.
380 BOO/13. Agreement between Booth and Hamburg Lines, 1913, 1 vol.