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Guide to the Jesse Shepard Papers MS 55
MS 55  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Processing Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Separated Materials
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Arrangement
  • Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
  • Biographical / Historical Notes
  • Scope and Content

  • Title: Jesse Shepard Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: MS 55
    Contributing Institution: San Diego History Center Document Collection
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 1.5 Linear feet (3 boxes)
    Date (inclusive): 1868-1959
    Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English, French, and Spanish.
    Abstract: The collection contains materials related to the musical and literary activities of Jesse Shepard, who wrote under the pen name Francis Grierson, and his long-time friend and assistant Waldemar Tonner.
    creator: Grierson, Francis, 1848-1927

    Processing Information

    Collection processed by Alison Hennessey on January 23, 2012.
    Collection processed as part of grant project supported by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) with generous funding from The Andrew Mellon Foundation.

    Preferred Citation

    Jesse Shepard Papers, MS 55, San Diego History Center Document Collection, San Diego, CA.

    Separated Materials

    Original photographs separated to the SDHC Photograph Collection, OP14160/0-14160/35. Photographs accessible by copy negatives.

    Conditions Governing Access

    This collection is open for research. Access to “Anecdotes and Episodes: An Autobiography” is restricted to copy of original. Original photographs separated to the SDHC Photograph Collection are accessible by copy negatives.

    Conditions Governing Use

    The San Diego History Center (SDHC) holds the copyright to any unpublished materials. SDHC Library regulations do apply. All materials identified as copies from the Illinois State Historical Library are restricted to research use only with no further reproductions permitted.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Accession numbers 730702 and 730816.


    The collection is arranged into three series:
    Series I: Jesse Shepard/Francis Grierson Papers
    Series II: Waldemar Tonner Papers
    Series III: Research
    Items within each series are arranged by subject.

    Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

    “Anecdotes and Episodes: An Autobiography” is very fragile and access is restricted to copy of original only. (January 23, 2012)

    Biographical / Historical Notes

    Benjamin Henry Jesse Francis Shepard (1848-1927) was a musician, author, lecturer, spiritualist, and self-proclaimed seer. While living in London in 1896, Jesse Shepard took the pen name Francis Grierson (Grierson being his mother’s maiden name), to which many of his works are credited. Shepard was born in Birkenhead, England on September 18, 1848. When he was six month old his parents immigrated to America and in 1849 settled in Sangamon County, Illinois. In 1858, while living in Alton, Illinois, Shepard was present at the last of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. From 1859 to 1862 he lived in St. Louis and served as a page for General John C. Fremont. While living in Niagara Falls with his family in 1863, Shepard had the opportunity to play the piano and discovered his musical talents. Prior to 1887, Shepard traveled extensively performing throughout the United States and Europe at the patronage of his admirers who were often prominent writers, artists, intellectuals and politicians. Shepard received notoriety as a master of piano improvisation performing at famous salons and for European royalty. While in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1871 Shepard received instruction in holding séances furthering his interest in mysticism and Spiritualism.
    In 1887, Shepard and his close friend and personal assistant Waldemar Tonner moved to San Diego and, with the financial support of William and John High, built a Queen Anne style mansion they named Villa Montezuma. While living at Villa Montezuma, Shepard hosted many of his own salons entertaining prominent guests and fellow Spiritualists with his musical talents.
    Shepard left San Diego for Europe in 1890 to focus on his writing. While living in London, he wrote poetry and eight books including "Modern Mysticism" (1899), "The Celtic Temperament" (1901), "Parisian Portraits" (1910), "The Humor of the Underman" (1911), "The Invincible Alliance" (1913) and his most famous work, "The Valley of Shadows" (1909). Shepard contributed poems, articles, and essays to various publications during this time. In addition to Francis Grierson, Shepard also used the pen name Judah P. Benjamin at least once for the publication of his poetry.
    In 1919, Shepard lectured on Theosophy in Toronto. In 1920 Shepard settled in Los Angeles where he lived with Waldemar Tonner for the remainder of his life. On May 29, 1927 at the age of 79, he died while giving a piano recital at his home.
    Much research has been done on Shepard. Harold Simonson conducted research at the Illinois State Historical Society and Library for his biography of Jesse Shepard titled, "Francis Grierson" (1966). Other research on Shepard’s life was undertaken by Clare Crane during the restoration of Villa Montezuma in the 1970s.

    Scope and Content

    The collection includes writings, correspondence, and articles by and about Jesse Shepard’s literary and musical activities. Shepard’s unpublished autobiography and the 1966 edition of The Valley of Shadows are included in the collection as well as articles and poems written by Shepard. Correspondence regarding Shepard’s literary projects, including a poetry anthology, is included in the collection, as well as a large amount of correspondence from prominent writers and intellectuals of his day, such as Sully Prudhomme and Mary Austin. In addition to correspondence, the collection holds copies of photographs and calling cards sent to Shepard, often with notes and/or signatures, as souvenirs from admirers and friends.
    Materials related to Waldemar Tonner, Shepard's assistant, include biographical and employment information, including letters of recommendation. Of particular interest are Tonner’s passport issued in England by Robert Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln, and a letter of recommendation for Tonner from Herbert Hoover.
    The collection also includes research materials from Harold Simonson, for his biography on Shepard, Villa Montezuma Curator Clare Crane’s research on the Villa, previously owned by Shepard, and correspondence of Leetha Journey Probst Hofeller, a writer and friend of Shepard.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Abemelik, Princess
    Ahna, Pauline de
    Alden, Ada
    Austin, Mary Hunter, 1868-1934
    Bazalgette, Leon, 1873-1928
    Begas, Mrs.
    Behymer, L. E.
    Bell, Edward Price, 1869-1943
    Berkow, Karl
    Biedma, Patrocinio
    Bleichroeder, Harriet
    Bonaparte, Marie, Princess, 1882-1962
    Bonaparte, Roland, prince, 1858-1924
    Bornier, Henri de, vicomte, 1825-1901
    Bourget, Paul, 1852-1935
    Bragdon, Claude Fayette, 1866-1946
    Broglie, Duc de
    Calcar, Elise van, 1822-1904
    David, Samuel
    Dawson, Miles
    Delaporte, V. (Victor), 1846-1910
    Diane, comtesse, 1829-1899
    Dunbar, William
    Dyck, Ernest van
    Grierson, Benjamin Henry, 1826-1911
    Grierson, Francis, 1848-1927
    Herron, George
    Holmes, Augusta Mary Anne, 1847-1903
    Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964
    Howe, Edith
    James, William, 1842-1910
    La Follette, Fola, 1882-1970
    La Roche-Guyon , Duc de
    La Rochefoucauld, Antoine de, Comte
    La Rouche-Guyon, Douairiere de, duchess
    Lavedan, Henri, 1859-1940
    Lindsey, Ben B. (Ben Barr), 1869-1943
    Loyson, Hyacinthe, 1827-1912
    Lytton, Edward Bulwer Lytton, Baron, 1803-1873
    MacKenzie, Cathinka, Madame
    Macleod, Fiona, 1855-1905
    Maeterlinck, Maurice, 1862-1949
    Mailhac, Pauline
    Mallarme, Stephane, 1842-1898
    Markham, Edwin, 1852-1940
    Mason, J. W. T.
    Meschi, Edward
    Miranda, Comtesse
    Mistral, Fredric
    Nilsen, Laurvik
    Nilsson, Christine, 1843-1921
    O'Shaughnessy, Edith, 1870-1939
    Petrie, Ronald
    Picard, Elise
    Pius X, Pope, 1835-1914
    Roberts, 1892-1976
    Roux, Joseph
    Scheffauer, Ethel Talbot
    Scheffauer, Herman George, 1878-1927
    Schure, 1841-1929
    Sharp, William, 1855-1905
    Shepard, Letitia
    Simon, Jules, 1814-1896
    Simonson, Harold Peter, 1926-
    Sinclair, May
    Spencer, Lilian White, 1876-1953
    Sterling, 1869-1926
    Suin, Diane Marie de
    Sully Prudhomme, 1839-1907
    Thackara , 1859-1915
    Theuriet, Andre, 1833-1907
    Thomas, Edith Matilda, 1854-1925
    Tonner, Lauritz Waldemar
    Van Noppen, Leonard Charles, 1868-1935
    Vannutelli, Vincenzo, 1836-1930
    Verlaine, Paul, 1844-1896
    Wagner, Richard, 1813-1883
    Walter, Clark, 1846-1924
    Waterman, Robert
    Watterson, Henry, 1840-1921
    Wendelstadt, La Baronne de
    Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924
    Wiszniewska, Princess
    Wiszniewska, Prince
    Wolsley, Lord
    Improvisation (Music)
    London (England)
    Los Angeles (Calif.)
    Paris (France)
    San Diego (Calif.)
    Sangamon County (Ill.)
    Villa Montezuma (San Diego, Calif.)