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Shepherd, Harry (ca. 1854–?)

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Harry Shepherd, 1906. Photo from the Appeal, August 18, 1906.

Harry Shepherd, 1906. Photo from the Appeal, August 18, 1906.

Harry Shepherd, an African American photographer who lived and worked in St. Paul between 1880 and 1905, became one of the most successful photographers in the city. Shepherd’s work earned awards and an opportunity to provide photographs for the American Negro Exhibit at the 1900 Paris Exposition. Politically active, he took part in the National Afro American Council (NAAC), and ran for Fourth Ward alderman in 1902.

Harry Shepherd, born ca. 1856 in Salem, Virginia, came to Minnesota in about 1877. He worked as a news boy on a steamboat before becoming the first African American photographer in Minnesota to own a photographic studio. Shepherd's first studio, the People's Photography Gallery, was located at 93 East Seventh Street, St Paul. Shepherd went on to open and sell at least four studios in the city, including People's Photography Gallery, the Annex (later the Swanson Gallery), the Elite Gallery, and the Shepherd Photographic Company.

Shepherd won two gold medals at the Minnesota State Fair and two gold medals from the Minnesota State Agricultural Society. Shepherd’s surviving photographs show that he specialized in portraits of both African and white Americans. One of his best-known portraits includes Mary E. Schwandt Schmidt (Mrs. William) and Snana Good Thunder (Maggie Brass). It illustrates that, while communities were segregated, his gold medals, quality of work, and fair pricing drew patrons into his studio.

Shepherd was politically active in his community. He held meetings in his studio for the National Afro-American Council (NAAC), an organization established in 1898 to address critical issues for African Americans, and served on the membership committee. He attended the NAAC convention in Philadelphia in 1901 as a delegate of the Business Men’s Club of St. Paul and Minneapolis and succeeded in persuading the council to hold its next convention in Minnesota

In 1902, Shepherd ran for Fourth Ward alderman, an elected member of the municipal council. The St. Paul Globe reported that he refused to take direction from the Republican Party. As a result, the Republican Fourth Ward Club voted to endorse a white candidate whom they persuaded to run for alderman. Shepherd argued that the party should not endorse one candidate, but allow all candidates into the primary to let the voters decide. At a Republican ratification meeting, Shepherd protested his treatment as a black man running for alderman. The Globe reported that Shepherd “promised to fight to the bitter end the men of his party who opposed him because of his color.” These inflammatory statements by Shepherd reflected his determination to fight racial discrimination.

In February 1900, Shepherd won the appointment of official photographer for the Afro-American exhibit at the Paris Exposition, created by Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Thomas J. Calloway. Earning a salary of four dollars per day for expenses plus a per-photograph fee, he traveled the southern states, taking pictures of African American businesses, agriculture, homes, and individuals. About a month later, he lost the appointment for encouraging southern blacks “to combine against the United States in the event of war with foreign powers," a charge he didn’t deny. Newspapers wrote inflammatory descriptions of Shepherd, labeling him an anarchist.

In 1904, Shepherd’s wife of eighteen years, Margaret (or Margett), sued for divorce on the grounds of “cruel and inhuman treatment.” She wanted “an absolute divorce,” with alimony payments of fifteen dollars, plus $100 in legal fees. The following year, Shepherd sold his photography studio “for a large sum” and his half-share in the Sangre Chemical Company for $5,000 cash. He moved to Chicago and established another successful photography company at 3018 State Street.

In 1909, Shepherd relocated to Seattle, Washington, where he incorporated a monthly newspaper, The Bertillon Eye. Ever the entrepreneur, he landed a contract to sell shares in a Klondike gold mining venture begun by G. W. Cormack.

By 1912, he reportedly became the general manager of the International Biographic Finger Print, a magazine published in Los Angeles, California. Little is known of Shepherd’s life beyond that time, including the date of his death.

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“Back in Business. Harry Shepherd Poisoned in Handling of Chemicals.” Appeal, March 28, 1903.
https://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/lccn/sn83016810/1903-03-28/ed-1/seq-3

Bergin, Daniel Pierce. “North Star—Harry Shepherd: Portrait of Progress.” YouTube video, 8:20. Posted by Twin Cities Public Television, May 4, 2007.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oH8XnTLA7Q

Bini, Elisabetta. “Drawing a Global Color Line: ‘The American Negro Exhibit’ at the 1900 Paris Exposition." EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste, 2014 p. 39-65.
https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/41178368.pdf

“Dissolution of Partnership.” Western Appeal, January 28, 1888.
http://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/lccn/sn83016811/1888-01-28/ed-1/seq-5

“Fight One Another.” St. Paul Globe. March 30, 1902.
http://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/lccn/sn90059523/1902-03-30/ed-1/seq-7

“Grist of the Political Mill.” St. Paul Globe. March 2, 1902.
http://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/lccn/sn90059523/1902-03-02/ed-1/seq-4

“Harry Shepherd.” Afro-American Advance, March 3, 1900.
https://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/lccn/sn86058061/1900-03-03/ed-1/seq-3

“Harry Shepherd.” Appeal, March 20 1909.
https://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/lccn/sn83016810/1909-03-20/ed-1/seq-3

“Harry Shepherd. The Eminent Afro-American Photographer of St Paul.” Appeal, May 28, 1892.
http://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/lccn/sn83016810/1892-05-28/ed-1/seq-2

“Harry Shepherd. The Great Photographer Who is in the City About to Launch another Big Undertaking.” Appeal, August 18, 1906.
https://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/lccn/sn83016810/1906-08-18/ed-1/seq-2

“Harry Shepherd, of the ‘Bertillon Eye’, Seattle, Wash., Lands a Big Contract.” Appeal. June 12, 1909.
https://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/lccn/sn83016810/1909-06-12/ed-1/seq-3

“Harry Shepherd the Photographer.” Appeal, February 3, 1900.
https://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/lccn/sn83016810/1900-02-03/ed-1/seq-3

“Harry Shepherd’s Reply to the Article in the Afro-American Advance.” Appeal, March 10, 1900. https://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/lccn/sn83016810/1900-03-10/ed-1/seq-3

“History Now.” Minneapolis Tribune, September 13, 1891.
https://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/lccn/sn83016771/1891-09-13/ed-1/seq-4

“N. A.—A. C.: The National Afro-American Council.” Appeal, August 24, 1901.
https://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/lccn/sn83016810/1901-08-24/ed-1/seq-1

“National Council To-morrow.” Minneapolis Journal, July 8, 1902.
http://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/lccn/sn83045366/1902-07-08/ed-1/seq-7

“Shepherd is King!” Appeal, November 8, 1890.
https://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/lccn/sn83016810/1890-11-08/ed-1/seq-3

“St. Paul.” Appeal, September 26, 1891.
https://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/lccn/sn83016810/1891-09-26/ed-1/seq-3

“St. Paul.” Appeal, August 3, 1901.
https://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/lccn/sn83016810/1901-08-03/ed-1/seq-3

“St. Paul.” Appeal. April 30, 1904.
https://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/lccn/sn83016810/1904-04-30/ed-1/seq-2

“St. Paul.” Appeal. May 20, 1905.
https://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/lccn/sn83016810/1905-05-20/ed-1/seq-3

“St Paul.” Appeal, May 6, 1906.
https://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/lccn/sn83016810/1906-05-05/ed-1/seq-3

“St. Paul.” Appeal, March 16, 1912.
https://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/lccn/sn83016810/1912-03-16/ed-1/seq-3

“They Want Catlin Now.” St. Paul Globe. February 23, 1902.
https://newspapers.mnhs.org/jsp/viewer.jsp?collection_filter=All&doc_id=749ae28b-361d-49b0-aedc-a7915

Related Images

Harry Shepherd, 1906. Photo from the Appeal, August 18, 1906.
Harry Shepherd, 1906. Photo from the Appeal, August 18, 1906.
Fredrick L. McGhee
Fredrick L. McGhee
Advertisement for Harry Shepherd’s Elite Studio, located at 15 East Seventh Street in St. Paul, 1891. From the Appeal, December 19, 1891.
Advertisement for Harry Shepherd’s Elite Studio, located at 15 East Seventh Street in St. Paul, 1891. From the Appeal, December 19, 1891.
Mary E. Schwandt Schmidt (Mrs. William) and Snana Good Thunder (Maggie Brass), 1899. Photo by Shepherd Photo Studio.
Mary E. Schwandt Schmidt (Mrs. William) and Snana Good Thunder (Maggie Brass), 1899. Photo by Shepherd Photo Studio.
“Exhibit of the American Negroes at the Paris Exposition.” From the American Monthly Review of Reviews XXII, no. 130 (November 1900): 576.
“Exhibit of the American Negroes at the Paris Exposition.” From the American Monthly Review of Reviews XXII, no. 130 (November 1900): 576.
Harry Shepherd, 1900. Photo from The Appeal, February 3, 1900.
Harry Shepherd, 1900. Photo from The Appeal, February 3, 1900.
Advertisement showing Harry Shepherd as a candidate for Fourth Ward alderman, 1902. From The Appeal, January 18, 1902.
Advertisement showing Harry Shepherd as a candidate for Fourth Ward alderman, 1902. From The Appeal, January 18, 1902.
Group photograph of the Minnesota state legislature, 1903. Photo by Harry Shepherd.
Group photograph of the Minnesota state legislature, 1903. Photo by Harry Shepherd.
Cabinet photograph of two male musicians, ca. 1905. Photo by Shepherd Photo Company.
Cabinet photograph of two male musicians, ca. 1905. Photo by Shepherd Photo Company.

Turning Point

In 1888, Shepherd purchases his first gallery, the People’s Photography Gallery.

Chronology

ca. 1856

Harry Shepherd is born in Salem, Virginia.

ca. 1877

Shepherd arrives in Minnesota, where he obtains work as a news boy on a steamboat.

1888

Shepherd buys his first photography studio, The People’s Photography Gallery.

1891

Shepherd is awarded the gold medal for the best photography display at the Minnesota State Fair.

1892

Shepherd wins his second gold medal for photography at the state fair.

1900

Thomas J. Calloway appoints Shepherd as the official photographer for the African American exhibit at the Paris Exposition in February. A month later, Shepherd is fired for encouraging southern blacks to rise up against the US government.

1901

Shepherd is a delegate to the National Afro-American Council meeting in Philadelphia, representing the Business Men’s Club of St. Paul and Minneapolis. He hopes to persuade the council to hold the 1902 meeting in Minnesota.

1902

Shepherd announces his bid for Fourth Ward alderman in January.

1903

While handling photographic chemicals, Shepherd contracts blood poisoning in January. He remains ill until May, but continues to work.

1904

Margaret Shepherd sues for divorce, claiming “cruel and inhumane treatment.”

1905

Harry Shepherd sells his business in St. Paul and moves to Chicago, where he opens another photography gallery.

1909

Shepherd is living in Seattle, where he is the founder and editor of The Bertillon Eye, Pacific Coast Detective, a monthly newspaper.

1909

Shepherd becomes the general manager of the International Biographic Finger Print, a magazine published in Los Angeles. The first issue is produced on March 1.