Meet Mary Louise Booth: Founding Editor of Harper’s Bazaar

By Phineas Upham

Mary Louise Booth is a native to New York, born in what is today known as Yaphank. She was the descendent of John Booth, an immigrant who came to America in 1649, as well as the granddaughter of a French Revolutionary. She grew up learning English and French, and contributed to various journals by the age of 14.

Booth took her translation work and skills in linguistics and tried to apply that to the school her father owned in Williamsburg. Although she loved literature and the English language, her health prevented her from teaching on a regular basis. As a result, she quit teaching to become a writer full time.

Booth spent a great deal of her early career translating manuals from French to English. Her first two projects involved both marble and clock making, but she also translated works of fiction. While all this was happening, she was researching the city of New York, trying to create a comprehensive history of it for people to digest.

She released that volume in 1859, two years prior to the American Civil War.

Her extensive work with French writers who supported the Union efforts may have been part of the reason she was chosen to be a founding editor for Harper’s Bazaar. There seems to be no record of her living the life of a fashionista, so it’s likely her connections to Paris helped propel her into the job.

Both Booth and Carmel Snow were instrumental in forming those early issues of Harper’s Bazaar, which was released weekly as a newspaper-style publication. Booth remained on the editing staff until her death in 1889 at the age of 57.

About the Author: Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Phineas Upham website or LinkedIn page.

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