Family bands

The Shepard Family Band was one of a number of similar “family” bands that gave concerts and performances in the USA in the late 1800s. The Shepards were based in Massachusetts and were active in the late 1880s and 1890s. Although the various family bands had different line-ups and instrumentation, they were quite popular as entertainment troupes, possibly singing and dancing in addition to their, often, multi-instrumental abilities.

Little is known about them other than that gleaned from the various promotional postcards or cabinet cards that they produced. These mainly show the family holding brass instruments, but they also performed as string, banjo and vocal ensembles, and may also have performed various sketches.

The family consisted of: Mr. J. M. Shepard – First Violin, Bb Bass Horn & Basso Soloist. Mrs. J.M. Shepard – Second Bb Cornet, Organist & Soprano. Miss Kittie Shepard – Cornet Soloist, Leader of Brass Band, Banjo Artist and Ballad Songstress. Miss Laura Shepard, Bb Tenor Horn, Baritone Soloist, Solo Violinist, Banjo and Character Sketch Artist. Miss Lessie Shepard – Eb Alto Horn, Second Violin, Irish & Dutch Specialty Artist. Miss Georgie Shepard – Little Bass Drummer, Bb Tenor Horn. And Master Burtin Shepard – Violin and Triangle, Vocal Artist and Bass Drum.

Family bands were not uncommon around the late 1800s and early 1900s, and those in the USA are known largely through their promotional cards. They existed in other countries also, but photographs and other information about them is more sparse.

Pictures of the bands below, and other unknown family bands, can be found in the IBEW Vintage Brass Band Pictures pages.

  • Biehl Family Orchestra, Iowa
  • Botteron Family Band, Chamberlain, Indiana. The musicians were 11 of the 16 children of Frederick Louis Botteron and Mary Jane Stone, aged from 9 to 26 years old in 1895. Some of the older brothers had been in the Chamberlain Cornet Band. When it disbanded they bought the instruments and uniforms and taught their siblings to play.
  • Bramusa Family Band, UK
  • Browns Family Orchestra, Wilmington, Delaware
  • Denman Family Band, Wyandotte. In the 1880s, this featured their five children: Charles, Belle, William, Bertha and John. Charles grew up to become an accomplished cornetist and the leader of the Belleville Citizens Band.
  • Forbes Family Band
  • Frank Family Band, Hornellsville
  • Hawthorne Family Band, Portland, Indiana, 1889
  • Hewitt Family Band
  • Jacobs Family Band, Illinois
  • Lawrence Family Band, Massachusetts
  • Markee Family Band, Quincy, Illinois. Active there in 1899. Moved to Chillicothe, Missouri in 1907
  • McGiben Family Band
  • Noss Family Band, New Brighton, Pennsylvania. Also known as the “Noss Jollities of Musical Comedy”. They were a family of eight including the parents, the children being Flora, Ferdinand, Charlotte, Frank, May, Bertha, Helen, and Lottie. Their first professional local performance was in Homewood, where a circus man from Maine saw them in action one day and offered to manage them on a 16-week tour of Maine. Their career took off from then. When the parents dropped out of the act, Ferd, Flora, Lottie, Frank and Mary billed themselves as “The Five Musical Nosses” and made for New York. There they became a vaudeville success. They retired in 1925 with the coming of the “talkies”. They toured the entire United States, Canada, Cuba, and Mexico many times over. See also http://www.bchistory.org/beavercounty/BeaverCountyTopical/arts,crafts,culture/NossFamilyBand/Nossindex/NossIndex.html
  • Silver Family Concert Band, Michigan.  Bert Silver was born into a show business family. In 1904 he started tent shows and had the first motorized circus in the United States, with four touring cars, four trucks and an advance car. Bert and his entire family played in the Silver Family Concert Band as part of the circus and also in concerts. In 1916 the circus had to be disbanded because the tents and trucks were confiscated by the U.S. Government for use in World War I. When the circus disbanded the family settled in Greenville.
  • Strohl Family Band, 1870
  • Swanson Family Band
  • Wagner Family Band, Texas. Led by Joseph George Wagner
  • Woodward Davis Family Band, Mineral Wells, Texas, 1917. Led by W.W. Woodward and his sister, Mrs E.L. Davies, with their children, aged from 5 to 16 years.
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