Charles James Booth was born the son of a Merseyside coal merchant on 30 March 1840. He was educated at the Royal Liverpool Institution and became apprenticed to a trading company, Lamport and Holt. Charles went on to set up a steamship company trading between Liverpool and Northern Brazil. Beyond his commercial aspirations, Charles wished to do something for the under-privileged of Victorian England and he joined the Birmingham Education League, founded to promote secular education.
Charles married Mary Catherine Macaulay (1843-1939), on 29 April 1871. Charles decided to move the merchandising arm of Alfred Booth and Company, the family firm, to London and extended his trade in leather to New York where he spent three months of each year. These long voyages led to the daily correspondence between Charles and Mary. Mary, by this time, was a partner in the company in all but name.
In 1884, Charles assisted in the analysis of statistics for the allocation of the Lord Mayor's Relief Fund and attempted to establish a Board of Statistical Research. In Spring 1886 he presented a paper, The Occupation's of the People of London, 1841-1881 , to the Royal Statistical Society. Mary helped her husband in his 'Inquiry' into poverty in London. She was also associated with a circle of intellectual women, many of whose husbands were MPs. In April 1889, Charles' first work, Volume 1 of the Poverty Series of Life and Labour of the People of London: Trades of East London , was published. The survey of Central and South London followed in volume 2, published in May 1891, while all the time Charles was involved in commerce and social science.
Charles was made President of the Statistical Society in 1892 and set about researching for a survey into the condition of industry in England and its impact on poverty. This was followed in 1899 by an investigation into old age pensions and The Aged Poor . In 1912, Charles ceded the chairmanship of Alfred Booth & Company to his nephew. On 23 November 1916, following a stroke, Charles died. A memorial to Charles Booth was erected in the crypt of St. Paul's Cathedral on 15 December 1920.
From the guide to the Booth, Charles (1840-1916) and Mary Catherine (1847-1939), 1799-1967, (Senate House Library, University of London)