The Idle Hour: The Eccentric Life of Capt. John Cussons

By Kyle Rogers, LVA Newspaper Project volunteer

Portrait of young Cussons, courtesy of LVA special collections

Portrait of young Cussons, courtesy of LVA special collections

Captain John Cussons, Jr., is one of Glen Allen’s most fascinating historical figures.  A nineteenth-century English immigrant with an entrepreneurial spirit and an insatiable wanderlust, Cussons left Lincolnshire for the United States in 1855, at the age of seventeen.  During his explorations of the Old West, Cussons encountered a Sioux village, where he simply walked into a young Native American woman’s tipi and remained for four years.

He then wandered southeast to Selma, AL, where he became part owner of the Morning Reporter newspaper  before enlisting in the Confederate Army at the outset of the Civil War.  As a scout, Cussons participated in several early Confederate victories and received rapid promotions before, true to character, he casually wandered behind enemy lines on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg and was captured by Union soldiers.   Whether Cussons escaped from the Johnson’s Island military prison on Lake Eerie or was simply paroled out in a prisoner exchange is unclear, but Steve Cooke of the Richmond Navigator notes, “The catalog of items in the American Civil War Museum in Richmond lists a ‘Saw made by Captain Cussons when at Johnson’s Island to make his escape.’”

Cussons (left) with Gen. Law (center) of his former 4th Alabama Infantry regiment.

Cussons (left) with Gen. Law (center) of his former 4th Alabama Infantry regiment.

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/gen-law-capt-john-cussons-4th-ala-infantry-need-help-identifying-others-in-photo.124548/

Rather than returning to England after the Civil War, Cussons ventured to Glen Allen, where he married the widow of Benjamin Allen, after whose prominent family the town was named.  Using funds from his successful printing company—Cussons, May, & Co.—the entrepreneurial ex-Confederate constructed the now-defunct Forest Lodge resort on Mountain Road, adjacent to the town’s railroad tracks:

Forest Lodge, 1880s

Forest Lodge, c. 1880s

https://donnawatkins.smugmug.com/Travel/Virginia/Forest-Lodge/i-kckpfFn
Mountain Rd., Glen Allen Historical Marker

Mountain Rd., Glen Allen Historical Marker

http://www.markerhistory.com/glen-allen-marker-e-10/

In its day, Forest … read more »

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Please Direct your Attention to Out of the Box and the Legacy of John Henry James

Fit to Print invites you to read yesterday’s Out of the Box blog which tells the tragic story of Albemarle County native, John Henry James. In his excellent blog entry, Greg Crawford, Local Government Records Program Manager, uses newspaper articles found on Chronicling America to reveal the starkly contrasting press coverage of the story.  It is no surprise that John Mitchell Jr., editor/publisher of the Richmond Planet, is unsparing in his condemnation on the horrors of mob rule. RP front pageread more »

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Into the Woods: VNP Visits the CCC

Exterior of the CCC Museum at Pocahontas State Park

Looking for something fun to do this summer? Well, look no further. Recently, the staff of the Virginia Newspaper Project returned newspapers to the Civilian Conservation Corps Museum at Pocahontas State Park in Chesterfield, Virginia. The museum generously lent newspapers from its collection for the VNP’s CCC newspaper digitization project. As luck would have it, team VNP picked a beautiful day for a visit.

Museum Brochure Cover

Located near the Education Center, nestled in the woods and housed in a small cabin built with materials from homes that once stood on the land, the museum shows how CCC members lived and the public projects on which they worked. For example, in one corner of the exhibition area, a visitor can see a standard issue cot among other memorabilia. Also on display are common tools workers used, uniforms enrollees wore and historic photos, letters, architectural drawings, ephemera and other documents related to the CCC. The Museum even has a bird egg collection, with eggs that date back to the 1880s!

As described in its pamphlet, “Visitors can learn about the dedication and sacrifice in the words and letters of the men whose contributions will last forever.”

In addition to the Museum, the park offers a long list of other fun things to do—and all for just a five to seven-dollar admission fee (depending on the time of year you visit). With 25 miles of off-road trails, Pocahontas State Park has some of the best hiking and mountain biking Virginia has to offer. It also has thirteen miles of bridle trails, picnic areas, an Aquatic Recreation Center (A.K.A. an impressive swimming pool complete with water slides), an Education Center, fishing and boating, camping and even has yurts available for nightly rental—as described on the … read more »

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Virginia Chronicle and Chronicling America

 

 

 

 

 

If you read this blog, you might know that the Virginia Newspaper Project (VNP) contributes digitized newspapers to two websites, Chronicling America and Virginia Chronicle. These sites are both wonderful repositories of historic newspapers from Virginia, but they aren’t the same, and don’t have exactly the same content.

Chronicling America hosts newspapers digitized through the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress. Newspaper Projects across the country apply for two-year grants that allow  each project to digitize about 100,000 pages per grant cycle. Until 2016, the newspapers digitized through NDNP grants were published between 1836-1922, but that window has been expanded to newspapers published between 1690 and 1963. Currently, Chronicling America has over 13 million pages from newspapers across the country!

The Virginia Newspaper Project has completed four grant cycles, and has been funded for its fifth. As a result, Chronicling America has 489,994 pages of Virginia newspapers.

Virginia Chronicle, which hosts the pages digitized through the NDNP, also contains additional digitization projects undertaken by the VNP. The Virginia Chronicle database currently has 977,408 pages of digitized newspapers–more pages will be added soon, which will put it at or near the one million page mark!

The nearly 500,000 pages on Virginia Chronicle not found on Chronicling America were funded by various sources, including publishers, donors, the Virginia Farm Bureau and the Library of Virginia itself.

Some of the newspapers on Virginia Chronicle do not fall under the scope of the NDNP, like those that are more current and non-traditional newspapers, like those published by high schools or the Civilian Conservation Corps. Virginia Chronicle has 598 issues of The Monocle, John Marshall High School’s newspaper, spanning from 1929-1973. These offer a fun, fascinating … read more »

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Our Own Community Press

Masthead Oct 1981 CROP

In August of 1976, gay and lesbian members of Norfolk’s Unitarian Universalist church formed a branch of the Unitarian Universalist Gay Caucus (UUGC), and quickly decided that they needed a newsletter: Our Own Community Press was born.

First cover positive

 

The first issue of Our Own Community Press asserted that “Not Just Another Gay Group is Born,” followed by an explanation of the guiding philosophy of the Tidewater  UUGC:

We devote ourselves to the improvement of gay life through increased positive visibility. …We are not outwardly visible unless we allow ourselves to be… The gays who are confused, lack self-confidence, or question their unique lifestyle are gays who must be reached. They must be helped to realize whatever decisions they make for themselves cannot be labelled “good” or “bad” by virtue of a simple sexual preference. Gay is good when we first accept it for ourselves, and better when we educate the public with regard to our pride, productivity, and heritage.

 

April 1984 Subscription AD

 

Originally a newsletter, Its first issue was a single, one sided 8.5″ x 11″ sheet. Our Own Community Press changed to newspaper format in January of 1978. The paper was typed, edited, and assembled over a one week period every month by volunteers and staff. It was available for free, though readers could subscribe for a suggested donation. The paper also sold ad space to defray costs, and encouraged readers to “spend your gay money at gay businesses.”

 

 

 

In their coverage, the UUGC stayed true to their promise to provide visibility and hope to gay men and women in the region. In a time where positive gay representation in media was sorely lacking, Our Own Community Press took care to inform readers of new books, movies, or … read more »

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“We Are Passing Through A Metamorphosis From The Old To The New.” Ashland, Bowling Green & Hopewell: A Virginia Newspaper Vanishing Act

The above quote is from the inaugural issue of the newly merged, freshly hyphenated Ashland Herald-Progress of 1919.  The editor requests the reader’s forbearance as the paper negotiates the challenges of combining and reorganizing two staffs into one.Herald-Progress editorial

A happy and manageable transformation, and one, like so many other similar mergers of the early 20th century, that spoke to the promising business prospects of newspaper ownership in cities both large and small.   A hundred years later however, media of more compelling and seductive charisma than the printed page have introduced an environment of less metamorphosis, more (apologies) metanophosis, as print newspapers are getting a quick nudge off the media bluff.

Last month Lakeway Publishers of Tennessee announced the closure of the Herald-Progress and the neighboring Caroline Progress of Caroline County.  Prince George County’s Hopewell News, about the same distance from Richmond to the south, heard their exit music from Lancaster Management of Alabama back in January.  That totals nearly three hundred years of publishing history brought to a conclusive finish.

While the Project’s purpose understandably keeps us fixed on the past, events of the present merit some attention as they suggest an acceleration to the demise of a business model of always anxious (the corporate word of choice) “viability”–the tandem of a double life, print and internet.  If they haven’t yet faded, you may observe in these links a pair of web spirits confused and unhinged from time, the weather forecast still updating like a lone humming appliance in an abandoned house: http://www.carolineprogress.com/ http://www.herald-progress.com/

It’s not news that newsprint is on the clock.  What may be new is the feeling that you can now see the second-hand moving.  As events of interest occur, we’ll keep you updated with an emphasis on alterations in the Virginia print landscape.  For now, it seems a proper … read more »

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Easter on Virginia Chronicle

bunnyMaud ruins a new Easter suit, Uncle Sam feeds the chicks of prosperity, Easter bargains, poison-free Easter egg dye, a delightful Easter egg hunt, and Mrs. & Mr. Seldomgo go to church. . .Below are just a few results from doing an “Easter” search in Virginia Chronicle: Easter Suit 2 April 1905Easter 4Easter2Easter 6Children's Page 31 March 1907 TDEaster7Easter 8read more »

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St. Patrick’s Patrician

Patrician titleIn 2017, a generous patron of the Library of Virginia donated several issues of the Patrician, the student newspaper of Richmond’s St. Patrick’s School. The issues added to the Library’s collection, published from 1946 to 1955, provide a glimpse of post-war life in Richmond through the lens of young writers. The papers also offer a unique historical record of one of Richmond’s treasured and bygone institutions, St. Patrick’s School.  

On September 3, 1866, only a little over a year after the Civil War’s end, St. Patrick’sDaily Dispatch 12 Nov 1866 Female Academy opened its doors in Richmond’s Church Hill neighborhood. In a Daily Dispatch article, “Catholic Schools on Church Hill,” published November 12, 1866, the Dispatch reported three Catholic Schools in the area: the Academy of Visitation, the School of the Sisters of Charity and a school run by St. Patrick’s Church, which had seventy students. “At these schools,” it explained, “scholars who are unable to pay for tuition (whether they are Protestants or Catholics) are received free of pay.”

Initially St. Patrick’s was located in the 100 block of North 25th Street, but in 1914 James Fox & Son constructed a larger school and adjacent housing for the sisters at 26th and Grace Streets. Designed by distinguished Richmond architect Marcellus Eugene Wright, Sr., the Times Dispatch described the new St. Patrick’s Academy as “one of the most modern [buildings] in the city.” Wright designed several buildings of note in Virginia, including the Chamberlin Hotel in Hampton, the George Washington Hotel in Winchester, and the Hotel John Marshall, William Byrd Hotel and Altria (formerly the Mosque) Theatre in Richmond.

The Altria Theatre (formerly The Mosque), designed by Marcellus Eugene Wright, Sr.

St. Patrick’s School, designed by Marcellus E. Wright, Sr. Photo by Clement Britt.
http://www.richmond.com/realestate/features/richmond-neighborhoods/st-patrick-s-place-how-a-historic-building-went-from/article_e7640a28-2c2b-11e7-9f9c-9b824c6429bb.html

In 1922, St. … read more »

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St. Patrick’s Day Miscellanea

By C Johnson, Newspaper Project Intern

times dispatch march 17 1911_2

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, we found a selection of the (very) broad ways that newspapers have chosen to acknowledge the feast day over the years.

The Weekly Register from Point Pleasant West Virginia published a poem, “The Shamrock,” in honor of St. Patrick’s Day on March 22, 1899. The next year, the  Virginian-Pilot published “Oran Gailig (Exile’s Song).” Both poems speak about the love an Irishman has for his country, and the longing felt when far from home.

Weekly Register 22 march 1899

Virginian Pilot March 18 1900

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The debate about proposed “Home Rule” versus a continued union with Britain shows up in Virginia papers even on St. Patrick’s Day, as shown in these political cartoons.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, March 17, 1913.

Norfolk Post, March 17, 1923.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Norfolk Post, March 17, 1922.

Norfolk Post, March 17, 1922.

 

The men in the Civilian Conservation Corp joined in the St. Patrick’s Day fun with themed covers for their camp newspapers, like this 1936 cover from Company 2344 in Big Stone Gap, Va.

Wise Owl March 23 1936

It wouldn’t have been the 1960s without a gelatin recipe for every occasion, and the Highland Recorder did not disappoint, offering a recipe for “peppermint flavored, green tinted gelatin dotted with miniature marshmallows.” If that sounds odd, give it a chance- they’re “sweet as the music of the harp,” and fully leprechaun endorsed.

Highland Recorder, March 17, 1966.

\ Highland Recorder, March 17, 1966.

If gelatin isn’t your thing, maybe take inspiration from the small boys who decided to take dessert acquisition into their own hands, and stole all the ice cream from this 1922 Norfolk party. We recommend asking first, though.

Norfolk Post, March 18, 1922.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from the VNP!

Rappahannock Record 13 march 1986

 … read more »

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Happy Birthday Mr. President

In honor of George Washington’s 286th birthday, we thought we’d share some of the many front page renderings of the nation’s Founding Father drawn by men of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Nearly 100 CCC newspaper titles have been digitized and are available on Virginia Chronicle. The rest of the collection will be added soon: wASHIGNTONdWashington (8)Geaorge Washington (1) Washington (7) Washington(3) Washington(6) Washington .Washington (9)read more »

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