THE SHEPARD FAMILY CONCERT COMPANY

This cabinet card features a portrait of the Shepard Family Concert Company. In this photograph, mother is playing the piano (or organ) and the five children and their father are playing violins. The photographer of this cabinet card is unknown, as is the location of the studio. A photograph of the Shepard family and their instruments appears in The Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont (located in Middlebury, Vermont). In addition, the museum possesses a “cigar ribbon quilt” serving as a piano cover. The quilt is made from silken advertising ribbons which cigar companies used to tie cigars together for packaging purposes. This particular quilt was made by Mary Emily Shepard (“Minnie”), the matriarch of the Shepard Family. The Shepard Family was Massachusetts based, and mostly toured upper New England. The musical group venues included the Town Hall Theatre, in Middlebury, Vermont. Family Musical Troupes were popular in the 1880’s and 1890’s.  Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Shepard  and their children, Kittie, Laura, Lessie, Georgie, and Burtin were regionally well known and appreciated in the late nineteenth century. Each family member were multi instrumentalists. The family could perform as a choral group, a brass band, or a violin ensemble with the mother playing the pump reed organ. In addition, sometimes, the children would perform as a banjo quintet.

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I am a grandson of Burton Shepard, the youngest child in the cabinet card photo on your site. I am interested in who is publishing this site, who is doing the writing of the text and from where have you obtained the information. I have done a ton of genealogical research and perhaps some conversation would be of mutual benefit.

  2. My ancestors, the Shepard Family pictured in the cabinet card above, were from Lawrenceville NY. My grandfather, Burton, was born in 1883. The Shepard family began to tour musically in 1885, performing in upstate NY, northern New England and perhaps Canada. While on tour, they became particularly fond of Vermont, and decided to make South Royalton VT their permanent home sometime between 1886 and 1888. They performed as a family troupe for about 12 years.

    One known copy of the cabinet card pictured above lists the names and musical specialties of the family on the verso, and was “given” in “Bethel [VT] on Aug 4 1888”, perhaps marking a performance in that particular place.

    From the holdings and research of the Henry Sheldon Museum in Middlebury VT, we know (from concert posters and programs) that the Shepard Family Concert Company performed at Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater on 26 May 1888, 21 Dec 1889 and 24 Jan 1894.

    I would encourage any reader interested in more information about the musical Shepard Family to read the excellent article written in July, 2008, by Jan Albers, Executive Director of the Sheldon Museum. You can access this article by visiting henrysheldonmuseum.org and clicking on the Articles tab from the Homepage.

    Matthew Keefe


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