Down Memory Lane

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Down Memory Lane
Photograph by David Lewinski

The achievements of the Scripps and Booth families are well noted in Detroit history. James Edmund Scripps founded The Detroit News in 1873. His daughter Ellen and her husband, George Gough Booth, developed Cranbrook. But mention that there was a Scripps-Booth automobile made in Detroit, and most people’s jaws drop in disbelief.

The Scripps-Booth Automobile Company was founded in 1914 by James Scripps Booth (Ellen and George’s son) and his uncle, William E. Scripps, but it was Booth who designed the company’s five models. In 1917, Chevrolet took the company over, although the Scripps-Booth marque remained on the grille. The autos were made in a factory on Detroit’s east side, on Beaufait, near Gratiot. General Motors, which acquired Chevrolet, retired the brand in 1922, but during its run it was promoted as a “luxurious light car,” whose owners included Winston Churchill, the Queen of Holland, and Irish tenor John McCormack.

“The advertising I’ve seen from that era was aimed at the upper class,” says Tom Booth (above) of Birmingham, who is James Scripps Booth’s grandson and the owner of a Scripps-Booth 1916 Model C Roadster. “The ads showed men in top hats, and others showed ladies driving the car in fur coats, gloves, and fancy hats.”

Booth says the price of a 1915 Scripps-Booth was “around $800 — about twice what a Model T cost.”

Booth was not only a fine auto designer, but an accomplished painter. His work was exhibited at the Detroit Museum of Art (the precursor to the DIA) and the Scarab Club.

His grandson bought a Scripps-Booth eight years ago after spotting an ad in Hemmings Motor News. Booth jumped at the chance to own a part of his family’s history. He says there are only 56 Scripps-Booth cars in existence; about 60,000 were made.

Even in the city that put the world on wheels, Booth says his car turns heads when he takes it for a spin. “It still surprises me when people say, ‘Oh, I’ve never even heard about one of those.’”

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