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Frederick Francis (Fred) Booty (1879–1914)

by Wendy Birman

This article was published:

Frederick Francis (Fred) Booty (1879?-1914), caricaturist, was born probably on 15 March 1879 in Sydney, fourth child of English-born Phillip Galloway Booty, law clerk, and his native-born wife Mary, née Grattan. He was descended from a long line of artists and lithographers. With his mother and five other siblings, he arrived at Fremantle, Western Australia, in 1896 aboard the Rockton to join his father and three older brothers who had preceded them. Fred supported himself by designing advertisements for the Umpire (Fremantle); in the evening he attended drawing and painting classes. He also sent cartoons and illustrations to the local newspapers.

The colony was booming and the press, on the verge of its 'inky golden years', attracted an influx of well-regarded journalists and visual artists from the economically depressed east. These pioneers provided Booty's inspiration for his caricature series, the 'Press Gang' and 'Brother Brushes' in the Sunday Times (Perth) and the Sun (Kalgoorlie). Although a youngster among such peers, Booty was deft with his pen and looked, listened and learned. His mentors were Ben Strange and Dick Hartley, between whose sketches his own contributions were periodically interspersed in the weekly papers. Doing the rounds of the public houses, he rubbed shoulders with literati such as Frederick Vosper, Andrée Hayward, 'Bluebush' (J. P. Bourke), and 'Dryblower' (E. G. Murphy). Booty's caricatures supported Dryblower's popular lampoon column 'Verse or Worse' in the Sunday Times.

Booty thought public figures and current events fair game. He often devoted a series of sketches to a particular topic, for example Sir John (Forrest) 'at home'; 'abroad'; dealing with Federation; with women's franchise; and his cabinet as 'a musical melange'. His favourite targets were politicians and the newspaper fraternity. Booty's most poignant illustrations complemented 'With the Bushmen', Bert Toy's South African war series in the Morning Herald. Naturally industrious, he had a prodigious output yet his whimsical wit and sure strokes remained distinctive. 'The Story of Chanticleer', in the 1901 Christmas edition of the Western Mail, was described as 'brightly written and made much brighter by the pretty work of the promising young artist'. Booty reputedly made the first line block print for the Perth Printing Works in April 1901.

He enjoyed undertaking decorative work for memorials or manuscripts or preparing theatre programmes. Slight of build, with a shock of dark hair, he was an engaging young man with an eye for the girls and a taste for the nightlife around the town. His consuming passion for the theatre ranged from vaudeville to oratorio. Grown restive by 1904, he returned to Sydney and applied for a job with the Victorian Stamp Co. Next year he joined a lithography partnership in London until the theatre lured him to the United States of America to work as a stage designer and caricaturist. Booty died of pneumonia on 13 January 1914 at Peter Bent Brigham hospital, Boston, and was cremated. He was married but the details are unknown.

Select Bibliography

  • The Booty Caricatures of Western Australian Personalities at the Turn of the Century, exhibition catalogue (Perth, 1993).

Citation details

Wendy Birman, 'Booty, Frederick Francis (Fred) (1879–1914)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 13 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (Melbourne University Press), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


15 March, 1879
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


13 January, 1914 (aged 34)
Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America

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