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Mon, 12.08.1856

Harry Shepherd, Photographer born

Harry Shepherd

*The birth of Harry Shepherd is celebrated on this date in 1856. He was a Black photographer and activist.

From Salem, VA, he came to Minnesota in 1880. In 1887 Shepherd established his photo studio in St. Paul, Minnesota, with eight working attendants. Business was good enough that by 1888 he opened two more studios, "Peoples Gallery" and "The Annex." His 1889 end-of-year profits were listed at a healthy $9000.00.  In 1891, Shepherd won the gold medal for the "Best collection of cabinets and largest portraits and views." at the Minnesota State Fair.

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 Black 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, 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.

He also 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 Fingerprint, a magazine published in Los Angeles, California. Little is known of Shepherd’s life beyond that time, including the date of his death. Harry Shepherd's death is unknown.

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