University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department


Thomas R. Booth Diaries

1855 - 1860

Manuscript Collection Number: 290
Accessioned: Purchase, April 1992.
Extent: 6 vol.
Content: Diaries.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: September 1993 by Kelly Baum.

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Table of Contents


Biographical Note

Thomas R. Booth grew up in Delaware, residing with his family in West Chester. In 1851, he left the state to pursue a career as a civil engineer and worked extensively for the Pacific Railroad Company in different areas of Missouri. In 1855, he was stationed in Jefferson City and began a project involving design and construction work on a new transcontinental railroad.

While Booth's activities for the railroad in 1855 consisted mainly of hands-on work, in 1856 he moved to St. Louis and was relegated to doing only office-and paperwork. Then, in the latter part of 1856 and continuing on into 1857 and 1858, Booth transferred to Franklin, Missouri. There, as "assistant engineer," he surveyed land and staked ground. Later in 1858 however, Booth lost his job with the Pacific Railroad as almost all work on the line came to a halt.

In order to earn an income, he took various engineering, mapping, and surveying jobs through the early part of 1859. Finally, in July 1859, Booth was offered a post as assistant engineer on the Osage Valley and Southern Kansas Railroad. He began residing in Tipton in Moniteau County, Missouri, and worked on the construction of this line through 1860.

Booth's diaries carry us close to the outbreak of the civil war and note the growing political tension in the country. Booth himself entered the Union army in Maryland as a private in 1861. On July 22, 1864, he was appointed captain and in 1865 brevet major for meritorious service. After this point however, no more information is available on him.

Source(s):

Note: Biographical information is derived from material in the the collection.

Scope and Content Note

The Thomas R. Booth diaries consist of six volumes spanning the years 1855 to 1860. They chronicle his time spent working and living in Missouri as an engineer for the Pacific Railroad and for the Southern Kansas Railroad. The daily entries consist predominantly of records of professional and social events and activities. Consistently, he notes the weather, his health, any correspondence received or sent, people he called on or dined with, and his church attendance on Sundays. Usually, in the back of his diaries, he accounted for any debts accrued or paid off and the amount spent on various services or items. He also frequently drew diagrams and calculated measurements which related to his job for the railroad.

Booth's writings focus mainly on aspects of his job as an engineer and detail certain projects he was working on at the time, such as laying tracks or building bridges or tunnels. He provides accounts of the grading, measurement, and structure of the railroad. Booth also describes the problems workers faced in terms of weather and comfort, and the challenges of living in rural towns without much companionship. He mentions the many people he worked for and with, and his acquaintances in the towns in which he lived or visited.

Because Booth was raised in Delaware and also lived in Missouri, both states practicing legalized slavery, the diaries to some extent illustrate his attempts to negotiate problems of race and slavery. A few entries document his encounters with Black slaves who worked underneath him. At the very end of his 1860 diary Booth provides a short commentary on the escalating fear of war. Booth himself participated in the Civil War but as a member of the Union army, in support of the northern states fighting against slavery.

Throughout his diaries, Booth mentions very little about his family or romantic interests and his entries lack clear references to any personal feelings or frustrations, cataloging events more so than emotions. It seems as if Booth never married and the only people he regularly corresponded with or visited during annual trips home were his immediate family. Booth even records the arrival of a telegram announcing the death of his mother with only a brief notation on September 11, 1857.


Contents List

Folder -- Contents

      Diaries, 1855-1860

F1   1855

F2   1856

F3   1857

F4   1858

F5   1859

F6   1860
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