Franklin Booth (1874-1948) was the Hamilton County artist who probably had the widest impact on the world of illustration. He developed a unique style based on hundreds of pen strokes that made the finished drawing look like an engraving. Three books have been written about Booth and his style, which became an important influence on modern comic book artists.
Booth grew up on a farm on the other side of the county near Clarksville before his family moved to Carmel. He eventually moved to New York where, at one point in time, ran an art school with George and Worth Brehm. He would return to Carmel from New York on regular occasions. He eventually built a studio behind his family’s home at 321 North Rangeline Road. In 1916, he took a road trip around the state with Theodore Dreiser. Dreiser turned the trip into a book titled A Hoosier Holiday with illustrations by Booth, including an image of Carmel.
Booth would occasionally do artworks for people and places in Hamilton County. One notable Booth work is at Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Noblesville, created for friends who attended the church. It is a variation on a common image of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. Because of Booth’s popularity and unique style, originals of his work are difficult to find. Most local exhibits have been done with prints from books and magazines.
Booth passed on his artistic knowledge to protégés such as his nephew Grant Christian. Christian would become known for creating Works Progress Association post-office murals during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Another student who became well-known locally was Carmel resident Ralph Applegate. When Booth died, his ashes were scattered at his parents’ grave at the Old Carmel Cemetery.
The Carmel Clay Historical Society has completed research on Booth, including much of the information included in this stop. They have also organized exhibits of his work.