Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Booth, Herbert Henry (1862–1926)

by Renate Howe

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Herbert Henry Booth (1862-1926), Salvationist, was born on 26 August 1862 at Penzance, Cornwall, England, fifth child of William Booth and his wife Catherine, née Mumford. William Booth had resigned from the ministry of the Methodist New Connexion Church in 1861 and established in London the East London Revival Society which, after several changes of name, became known in 1878 as the Salvation Army, with William as general.

Herbert received little formal elementary education but became a student at Allesly Park College and the Congregational Institute at Nottingham. Along with others of the family, he threw himself into army work in France (1880-82) and in Britain as principal of the Officers' Training Home. After an overseas tour in 1888 Herbert was given the title of commandant by the general and placed in charge of army operations in Britain. An able musician and splendid showman, in 1890 he organized a grand demonstration at the Crystal Palace for which later that year he published Songs of Peace and War. On 18 September at Clapton he married Cornelie Schoch, daughter of a Dutch Salvationist.

Herbert was involved in family arguments that developed after his mother's death in 1890. Because of disagreements with his brother Bramwell he successfully requested in 1892 a posting to Canada; in 1895 he reluctantly obeyed orders to take up the Australasian command.

The Booths and their three sons arrived in Melbourne on 25 August 1896. Three months later Herbert launched his 'Move-on Manifesto', an ambitious plan for the Australian army based on the general's scheme of social salvation outlined in his In Darkest England and the Way Out (London, 1890). The Booths, talented in public relations and administration, attracted financial support for the army's social work, especially in Victoria where the organization was well established and respected and where state aid was available for welfare work. Institutions established by the Booths in Victoria became models for army work in other countries and for welfare work in Australia.

Many Salvationists were critical of Herbert's leadership. A decline in membership strengthened accusations that he was promoting social at the expense of spiritual work. Most dissatisfaction concerned his dictatorial leadership. He refused to implement new regulations from headquarters which weakened the powers of territorial commanders and insisted on choosing his own staff. Family arguments again came to the fore and in 1901 Herbert asked to be relieved of the Australasian command and to be appointed superintendent of the army's farm for boys and girls at Collie, Western Australia, where he arrived on 1 October. Early next year, after hearing of his sister Catherine's resignation from the army, he decided to follow her. In February he and Cornelie left Collie quietly and in August embarked for San Francisco.

The 'five conquering years' of Herbert Booth's leadership left an indelible imprint on the Australian Salvation Army. Apart from the extension of the social wing, his legacy included the establishment of a national training college for officers in East Melbourne and the growth of the War Cry to a sixteen-page national paper printed on the army's own press. He also steered to completion the spectacular Soldiers of the Cross, a mixture of slides and moving picture; produced in order to raise money for the army's work, it has an important place in the history of Australian film.

In the United States of America Herbert became an Evangelist, and travelled in North America and South Africa with Soldiers of the Cross. In 1915 he established the Christian Confederacy in America, whose pacifist philosophy he expounded in several publications including The Saint and the Sword (New York, 1924).

Cornelie Booth died in 1919. In November 1923, on his return to New York from an evangelistic tour of New Zealand and Australia, Herbert married Australian-born Anna Ethel Lane. She and two sons of his first marriage survived him when he died at Yonkers, New York, on 25 September 1926.

Select Bibliography

  • F. C. Ottman, Herbert Booth: Salvationist (Lond, 1929)
  • R. Sandall, The History of the Salvation Army, vol 3 (Lond, 1955)
  • R. Howe, ‘“Five Conquering Years”. The Leadership of Commandant and Mrs H. Booth … 1896 to 1901’, Journal of Religious History, 6 (1970-71), no 2
  • New York Times, 26 Sept 1926
  • private information.

Citation details

Renate Howe, 'Booth, Herbert Henry (1862–1926)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/booth-herbert-henry-5290/text8923, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 20 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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