Walter Henry Booth

Illustrator of Children's Comics, and an Artist.


Walter Henry Booth was born in 1889 in Walthamstow, Essex, and was the youngest of three children. He was educated at Gamuel Road School which is still in existence. He went on to study at the Walthamstow School of Art, located in the Court House in Hoe Street. This lovely old building was badly damaged during WW2 and eventually had to be demolished. Another famous artist, Walter E Spradbery, b1889 in Dulwich, also attended this college about the same time and both families lived in the vicinity. While Walter Spradbery went on to design posters for the Underground Group and London Transport (1912-1944), Walter Booth joined the staff of Carlton Studio in 1908, drawing general commercial work. In 1911, he moved to the James Henderson & Son publishing house in Red Lion Square, London, where he started to illustrate comic strips in a precise, remarkably neat style which hardly changed throughout the following 40 years or more of comic work which followed.

His first illustrations were for COMIC LIFE and SPARKS. His most famous comic character, PROFESSOR POTASH, began in 1915 and was featured in THE BIG COMIC and LOT O' FUN. In 1919, he began a new series for SPARKS called PEGGY AND PETER IN TOYLAND and created JUMBO in 1920.

This proved to be an eventful year for Walter as James Henderson & Son were bought out by the powerful Amalgamated Press. He proved to be a first-rate imaginative artist  and his extraordinary skills as an illustrator led him to work on PUCK, the leading colour comic weekly. Although he never signed his work (they were not allowed to do so), he created the first real hero of British comics, ROB THE ROVER, a dramatic picture serial which was to run in the UK for the next twenty years. While on a visit to the Natural History Museum, Walter came across a young man by the name of Hugh Stanley White who was busy sketching.  He discovered that Hugh had studied at the Chiswick Art School and this meeting led to Walter taking him on as his assistant. They worked together for two years and Hugh collaborated by inking backgrounds, lettering etc., on ROB THE ROVER and other adventure serials. Hugh went on to become one of the first comic artists to specialise in Science Fiction. In 1930, Walter took over the full colour front page with his JINGLES' JOLLY CIRCUS and on the back page could be found his serial, ORPHANS OF THE SEA. Due to additional demands on his time, he also took on Vincent Daniel who created a separate series for PUCK called THE TRAIL OF TONY TRUE. Vincent, who was somewhat older than Walter having been born in 1874, worked as an engraver before becoming an illustrator and some of his work is recorded as far back as 1904. He produced many other adventure strips for PUCK, CRACKERS, MERRY AND BRIGHT and GOLDEN.

By 1940, Walter was living in far-off Wales and received his assignments by post. PUCK ceased publication in the UK later that year, due to the wartime shortage of paper. Work was scarce for quite a while but he then drew some good strips for MERRY  MAKER,  a small comic started by his old friend, Hugh Stanley White. This was followed by work for SCION comics and he eventually made a comeback with JACK AND JILL, a nursery comic printed in photogravure. His last contribution to comics was THE OLD WOMAN WHO LIVED IN A SHOE, in 1954. This was an action-filled picture serial that covered the centre spread and which transferred to HAROLD HARE'S OWN PAPER, in 1964.

Walter Booth died in Barmouth, Wales, on 18th February, 1971, at the age of 81.