US singing group. In 1841 Jesse (1813–1853) became the musical director and manager of a quartet made up of four of his siblings: (Adoniram) Judson (1817–1859), John (1821–1908), Asa (1823–1884), and Abby (1829–1892). They travelled throughout New England and New York State (occasionally using the name ‘Aeolian Vocalists’), and performed as the Hutchinson Family in New York City in 1842 and Britain 1845–46. With the death of Judson they split into two ensembles – the ‘Tribe of John’ and the ‘Tribe of Asa’ – but both still billed themselves as the Hutchinson Family. The two groups (by this time including children and grandchildren of the original members) continued performing into the 1880s.
The family were from Milford, New Hampshire. 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 first known as the ‘Tribe of Jesse’ when they performed locally, singing the popular songs of the time. The brothers Judson and Jesse composed most of their songs. 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. During the US 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. Judson helped found the town of Hutchinson, Minnesota, in 1855.