Hutchinson Family, The

Hutchinson Family, The

singers; from Milford, N.H. The parents were Jesse and Mary (Leavitt) Hutchinson who had 11 living sons and two daughters, all of whom at one time sang in the family ensemble. They were originally known as the Hutchinson Family or "Tribe of Jesse" when they performed locally, singing the popular songs of the time. By 1841, however, a son, Jesse (1813–53), had settled in Boston, and he became the musical director and manager of a quartet made up of four of his siblings: (Jesse (1817–59), Jesse (1821–1908), Jesse (1823–84) and Jesse (1829–92). (Another brother, Joshua, occasionally substituted for a missing member.) They began to travel throughout New England and New York State (occasionally using the name "Aeolian Vocalists.") They soon changed their name to the Hutchinson Family and it was by that name that they performed in New York City (1842) and Great Britain (1845–46). Although not limiting their appearances to such groups, they often performed before socially progressive gatherings—temperance, abolitionists, women's rights groups—or in prisons and almshouses. The brothers Judson and Jesse composed most of their songs. Judson moved to Minnesota in 1855 and helped found the town of Hutchinson. With the death of Judson (1859), they split into two ensembles—the "Tribe of John" and the "Tribe of Asa"—but both still billed themselves as the Hutchinson Family. During the Civil War they popularized such tunes as "The Battle Cry of Freedom" and "Tenting Tonight on the Old Camp Ground." In 1861 Gen. George McClellan barred their appearing in the army camps in Virginia because their antislavery songs were said to anger many soldiers; after President Lincoln had the offending verses read to him in a cabinet meeting, he said, "It is just the character of song that I desire the soldiers to hear," and the Hutchinsons were allowed to perform before the servicemen. The two Hutchinson groups—by this time including children and grandchildren of the original members—continued performing into the 1880s.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.