Fonds PR-2227 - Alfred E. Booth fonds

Title and statement of responsibility area

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Alfred E. Booth fonds

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  • moving images

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on the contents of the fonds.

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  • 1931-1957 (Creation)
    Booth, Alfred Edmund, 1892-1977

Physical description area

Physical description

39 film reels : si., b&w and colour ; 16 mm
1 audio recording

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Name of creator

Biographical history

Alfred Edmund Booth was an enterprising man who tried several careers before he became a filmmaker. He emigrated from England to British Columbia in 1912 and got his first job surveying for a fruit irrigation company in Kamloops. Shortly after that he worked for several logging operations on the coast. In 1915 he moved to Vancouver where he was employed as head mechanic for a brewery company, a job that he stayed at for over three years. During this time he married Grace Ellen Greer, began a family, and settled in Vancouver. Because of Booth's experience in the automobile business he was asked to organize chapters of the Vancouver Club, forerunner of the B.C. Automobile Association. He was successful and, in the process, learned about road conditions and services for motorists. This knowledge, combined with his enthusiasm for B.C.'s outdoors, led him, in 1928, to found the "B.C. Sportsman Club". The purpose of the club was to promote the development of facilities for fishermen, hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts. To publicize B.C.'s outdoors Booth photographed wildlife and scenery and this led, by happenstance, to motion pictures. In 1929 he entered a contest sponsored by a Minneapolis sports magazine that offered a motion picture camera for the best outdoor photograph. He sent in some photographs and won the prize, a German made 16mm Agfa Ansco camera. From then until the 1950s, when he retired, taking motion pictures and exhibiting them was his main occupation. Booth initially shot film as a hobby, for example, bringing the camera along on his travels to capture scenery and resorts. By the mid 30s he recognized the commercial possibilities of motion picture film. In particular, he thought motion pictures would be a good way to promote British Columbia as a place for tourism, recreation, settlement and investment. Coming from England he was impressed by the natural resources and undeveloped state of his adopted land and identified a need to publicize this potential. In about 1937 Booth formed a company, Travel Films, and set about to market his films. He sought financial support from businessmen and government and was successful in 1939 and 1940 in getting contracts from the British Columbia government. The contracts payed him to take his films on the road and exhibit them across B.C., the prairie provinces and parts of the United States. The government also acquired copies of Booth's films for its promotional library. Booth also shot films for sponsors. This may have been his biggest source of income, but no records survive to show how much. Known sponsors include the Anglican Church's Columbia Coast Mission which contracted him to film its medical and religious services for isolated coastal communities. Other sponsors were, reportedly, the B.C. Tree Fruit Board, Pacific Petroleum of Alberta, Frasea Farms, B.C. Natural Gas, Canadian Scottish Regiment, Canadian Pacific Airlines and the Canadian government. Mining concerns and companies associated with the 1955-56 Ripple Rock project may also have supported some filming. Of the completed sponsored films, only those of Columbia Coast Mission are known with certainty to have survived. Along with the surviving out-takes of other productions, they provide the only confirmation of this kind of filming work. Booth's last known filming was about 1957. After 1957 Booth attempted to get some of his films exhibited, but not with much success. Undoubtedly the availability of films about British Columbia with sound tracks had long undercut his filmmaking. During his retirement he moved to Lillooett for several years, then returned to the coast and lived in a retirement manor until his death in 1977. Both in Lillooet and at the retirement manor he tape recorded reminiscences of his life in British Columbia. The reminiscences reveal his fascination with the history and geography of British Columbia, but they give little detailed explanation of his film work. When he moved to Lillooet his films were taken and cared for by various family members. By then the films were in a very fragmented state, and they were stored unused except for perhaps a few ad hoc family viewings.

Custodial history

Under the title "The Films of Alfred Booth", this material was donated to the British Columbia Archives in 1994 by Dudley Booth, son and executer of the estate of Alfred Booth, via archivist Colin Preston of CBC Vancouver.

Scope and content

The fonds consists of 20,860 feet of colour and black and white 16 mm film, comprising outtakes, footage and some completed films. With the exception of a few prints, the collection consists of camera original (reversal) film. This is the largest surviving collection of Booth's films. The material was shot between 1931 and 1957. When the collection was acquired it was in a disorganized and neglected state. It consisted of 254 reels and rolls of film piled into boxes in no apparent order and with no reliable identification or titles. All the reels were standard 100 and 50 foot camera reels containing sections of film that varied in length from 5 to 110 feet. Subsequent research indicated these were either random footage or they were outs from original Booth compilations. Many of these reels consisted of sections spliced together, suggesting they were once part of a compilation that had been cannibalized for subsequent compilations. In addition, many sections spliced together bore no relation to each other and some were spliced together backwards or upside-down, perhaps due to a hurried attempt to attain physical neatness. Only 13 of the 254 items were longer rolls and reels of coherent subject matter that indicated original Booth compilations. Internal evidence plus dating indicate that the majority of these reels relate to the films Booth made on his own rather than those he made for sponsors. The majority were shot in the 1930s. Although information is lacking, especially as regards the sponsored films, it appears that this collection, though sizeable, accounts for only about a third of Booth's total output. Booth's films have been described by one film historian as "one of the most important collections of amateur film from British Columbia ...its real strength is ...depicting rural and small town life in the British Columbia interior in the 1930s and 1940s." This assessment is largely born out by the contents of Booth's surviving films. The films primarily feature the communities and livelihoods, as well as the natural landscape , along the highways and waterways of the province's south central interior. Communities are presented in considerable detail; a town, for example, is portrayed by its main street businesses and merchants, residential streets, local mills and plants, transportation systems and nearby recreational opportunities. Ranches or mining operations are also presented in similar detail. Whether Booth's films should be regarded as amateur or professional (in a limited genre), however, remains open to question. Booth's films also reveal that, through personal contacts and familiarity with the communities, he was able to film on a more intimate level than, say, a professional film crew. This is evident in the many close-ups of people in everyday life, earning livelihoods, demonstrating special skills, or at leisure. Given Booth's freedom to film what he wanted, many shots reflect a personal interest -- as though he filmed subjects only for the purpose of making a film record, or to capture a dramatic incident that he chanced upon in his travels. This is suggested by the significant amount of the surviving footage that appears to have no identifiable market purpose.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition


The films were arranged according to Booth's known filming activities, whether that was shooting, editing (i.e., compiling), exhibiting or custodianship of the collection. The most basic discernable order was between films compiled by Booth and the reels of footage or outs. Films compiled by Booth were long rolls of film showing sequences of related subject matter spliced together by Booth. These were categorized as completed productions and given titles appropriate to the content. By contrast, footage and outs were of shorter length and found randomly placed on reels. Their fragmented state left them highly inaccessible, and it was necessary to apply some principles of organization to bring the material into intelligable units. The first organizing principle was according to the orginal purpose of the filmmaking. Thus, known film activities of Booth such as the Ripple Rock project or film sections of a single subject such as the operations of a mining company, indicated outtakes of former productions and could be assembled as such. There was, coincidentally, several loose title frames that indicated a geographic order to travel films exhibited for the B.C. government. Accordingly, many sections of footage and outs were assembledon the basis of region or place. Manufacturer's date codes, while not wholly reliable, helped categorize and describe the films. Large portions of the footage and outs, though identifiable as to subject matter, could not be related to a Booth filming project. Rather than impose an artificial order, these sections were loosely assembled onto reels called "Booth Collection: B.C. Places" and "Booth Collection: miscellaneous". In addition to these assemblages, a substantial amount of film was unidentifiable or technically sub-standard. These have been left as separate items and not transferred to videotape. They are described under the title "Booth collection -- miscellaneous nidentified".

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Availability of other formats

Restrictions on access

  • No access restrictions apply.
  • Use video reference copies for viewing purposes.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Copyright was assigned to the British Columbia Archives by the donor.

Finding aids

A comprehensive finding aid is available on file and in the reference room.

Associated materials

  • F1985:18 /002 is a Booth film under the title "[Columbia Coast Mission Miscellany, 1939]".
  • F1991:06/001 is a Booth film under the title "[Columbia Coast Mission, 1936]".
  • The following films are also attributed to Alfred E. Booth: F1985:11/001, "[Columbia Coast Mission : MS John Antle]" (1950-53); F1985:11/002, "[Columbia Coast Mission : MS Columbia]" (1940s)"; and F1985:18/001, "Visit of His Majesty King George VI and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth to Vancouver and New Westminster -- May 1939".
  • See sound recording T1429 for Booth's recorded reminiscences.

Related materials


No further accruals expected.

General note

Videotape masters are available on Betacam SP, and may be copied for clients by the BC Archives. Copying will be on one-pass basis. Order by videotape and item number.

General note

Archives code(s): Fonds description was previously numbered AAAA8051.

General note

Accession number(s): 91-6196; F1994:02

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Physical storage

  • Box: 916196-0001