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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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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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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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The 1907 Monuments in the Press

By Claire Johnson, Newspaper Project Intern

In the late spring of 1907, forty-two years after the end of the Civil War, Richmond was flooded with veterans and tourists for a 5 day celebration of the city’s two newest Confederate monuments and the seventeenth reunion of the United Confederate Veterans.

First, on May 30, the equestrian statue of J.E.B. Stuart was unveiled by his eight year old grand-daughter, Virginia Stuart Waller. The following Monday, June 3, on what would have been his 99th birthday, the monument to the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, was dedicated.

IMG_2458The white press gave huge amounts of space in their papers to the monuments and the Confederate reunion. The Times Dispatch went to great lengths to impress upon its readers the majesty and importance of the days events:

“In the presence of a great multitude of people, and beneath cloudless skies, with the thunder of cannon, the waving of flags, the singing of children and the playing of bands, the equestrian statue of Major-General J. E. B. Stuart was unveiled yesterday by a granddaughter of the world-famous cavalry leader. . .The exercises of the monument were preceded by one of the most notable parades ever seen in Richmond, in which nearly 10,000 men participated, the column taking over an hour to pass a given point.”

The “Grand Parade” was a long one. It began downtown at Capitol Square and moved to the site of the J.E.B. Stuart monument (nearly two miles away), at Monument Avenue and Lombardy Street, then went nearly two more miles to Hollywood Cemetery, adjacent to Richmond’s Oregon Hill neighborhood, to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers buried there.

IMG_1928 IMG_1930

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1935 IMG_1940 IMG_1941 IMG_1942 IMG_1936 IMG_1939Crowds flooded Richmond for the event, though hard numbers differ. The Alexandria Gazette asserted that 30,000 members … read more »

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“A Carol of Clothes:” Winter Fashion and Hints for the Holiday Hostess

By Claire Johnson, Newspaper Project Intern

Merry Christmas from the VNP!

RTD 12-14-1919 SANTA

The holiday season has long meant family gatherings and a a full social schedule. Women of early twentieth century Richmond who wanted to make sure their parties, menus, and wardrobes were current and stylish had to look no further than the women’s pages of their  newspaper. There they could find decorating tips, menu suggestions, fashion advice, and etiquette help to make sure their holiday parties went off without a hitch.

Times Dispatch 12-3-1911 HEADER

Richmond Dispatch 12-23-1894 HEADER

In celebration of this holiday season, join us on a visual tour of the fads of Christmas past.

1894:

Richmond Dispatch 12-23-1894 CAROL

The times. December 09, 1894 WAISTThe times December 09, 1894 CLOAK N COPY 2

 

1896:

Norfolk Virginian 12-20-1896

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1901-1902:

From The Times, December 1901

The times. (Richmond, Va.) 1890-1903, December 08, 1901 WALK HAND The times Dec 08, 1901 DINNER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From The Dispatch, December 1901

 

From The Dispatch, January 1902

 Dispatch 1-12-1902 Text

 

1907:

RTD 12-15-1907

1911:

Times Dispatch 12-3-1911

1915:

RTD 12-19-1915

1917:

RTD 12-12-1917 YULETIDE COAT

1919:

RTD 12-14-1919

                        Richmond Times-Dispatch December 14, 1919

1922:

RTD 10-22-1922read more »

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To-night is Halloween!

By Claire Johnson, Newspaper Project Intern

Halloween Header ImageHappy Halloween From the VNP! In honor of the spookiest of holidays, here’s a look back at how Richmonders of the past celebrated Halloween.

Richmond Dispatch 10:30:1897

For young women at the turn of the century, Halloween presented an opportunity to glimpse into the future and see the face of their husband-to-be by completing one of several complex rituals. The Richmond Dispatch on October 31, 1897 described one such ritual, performed at or near midnight on Halloween. Wearing her hair loose down her back and barefoot, the curious young woman must light a candle, and descend down her basement stairs backwards. As she walks, she repeats a stanza from Robert Burns’ 1743 poem, “Green Grow the Rashes:” “Auld Nature swears the lovely dears, Her noblest work she classes, O: Her ‘prentice han’ she tried on man, And then she made the lasses, O!”At the bottom of the steps, after turning around twice and taking ten steps, she looks over her shoulder into a mirror. If she is going to be married, she will see the reflection of her husband in the mirror.To-night is Halloween! Throughout the city, in the house of rich and poor alike, its joyful customs will be observed.

The same article explained the soothsaying powers of “ducking for apples.” The instructions begin in a familiar way for those of us who bobbed for apples at harvest festivals or Halloween parties as children: fill a vessel with water and add apples, then close your eyes, lean in, and try to get one. Here, 19th century ducking for apples diverges from the modern incarnation of the game. According to the superstition, those who successfully picked up an apple with their teeth three times in five minutes would dream of their future spouse that night.

On November 1, 1896, the Richmond Dispatch published a poem titled “Girls on Halloween,” which detailed more of the practices girls … read more »

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There Be Great Witches Among Them: Witchcraft and the Devil in Colonial Virginia

Daemonologie

Salem witch trials are among the most well-known instances of witchcraft in colonial America, but belief in witches was not limited to New England. The colonists who settled in the lower colonies, like Virginia, came from England at a time when witch trials were a fact of life and had been for centuries. Beliefs such as these were bolstered by King James I’s 1597 text Daemonologie, which wrote that witchcraft and possession by the devil was, “most common in such wild partes of the worlde,” because there, “the Devill findes greatest ignorance and barbaritie.” (1) As Edward Bond wrote in his article “Source of Knowledge, Source of Power,” this led to English colonists who were “predisposed…to see evidence of malevolent supernatural forces in North America,” which they did, nearly immediately. (2)

Detail of Smith's 1612 Map of Virginia. The caption reads: Powhatan held this state and fashion when Capt. Smith was delivered to him prisoner, 1607.

Detail of Smith’s 1612 Map of Virginia. The caption reads: Powhatan held this state and fashion when Capt. Smith was delivered to him prisoner, 1607

Map of Ould Virginia, from Smith's Generall Historie

Map of Ould Virginia, from Smith’s Generall Historie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upon arrival, colonists recorded the signs of witchcraft and the devil they saw in the new world. When describing the native people of Virginia, John Smith wrote, “their chiefe God they worship is the Devill,” (3) and Powhatan, the chief, was “more devill than man.” (4) Reverend Alexander Whitaker, in a letter to a fellow priest in England, wrote that the behavior of the native people, “make me think that there be great witches among them, and that they are very familiar with the devil.” (5)

In his article “The Devil in Virginia in the Seventeenth Century”, Richard Beale Davis wrote that the few instances of witchcraft in colonial Virginia “had more to do with folklore than theology,” and Virginia avoided anything nearing the scale of the … read more »

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Complicated History: The Memorial to Robert E. Lee in Richmond

By Claire Johnson, Virginia Newspaper Project Intern

People have always been complex, making history a complicated topic. When history is distilled down to be straightforward, the reality of human failings and flaws are bypassed in favor of a clear-cut narrative. When national and regional pride are added to the mix, historical facts often become controversial. Citizens of the American South know this well; modern debate over the history of the Confederacy, and its monuments, easily becomes heated.

Though the Civil War ended in 1865, the war continued throughout the South, rearing its head in acts of violence and terror against black communities, now ostensibly free citizens of the United States. While some efforts to sow fear were overt, such as those of racist groups Knights of the White Camellia, the Red Shirts, or the Ku Klux Klan, others were unspoken. In addition to vigilante terrorism, the lives of black Southerners were made worse through legal means. In Virginia, poll taxes were enshrined in the constitution in 1876, shrinking the black electorate. black men were further disenfranchised after the Virginia constitution was rewritten in 1902.

It is a matter of much contention today whether these monuments to Confederate leaders were one such message to the black communities of the South or simply monuments built to honor the Civil War dead and Southern history.

Confederate monuments began going up in Richmond not long after the end of the Civil War. In 1875, a statue to Stonewall Jackson was erected on the Capitol grounds. However, the statues that now line Monument Avenue went up later, beginning 25 years after the end of the war, in 1890, with Robert E. Lee. The other Confederate statues on Monument Avenue came later: J.E.B. Stuart and Jefferson Davis’ statues were added in 1907, 42 … read more »

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Virginia Suffrage News

IVirginia Suffrage News was a monthly newspaper published by the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia. Beginning with its first issue in October 1914, the paper aimed to link the many suffrage leagues throughout the Commonwealth in their common mission of acquiring the right to vote for women.

This goal Iwas summed up in a foreword to the first issue by Lila Meade Valentine: “For this is pre-eminently a cooperative movement- one in which good teamwork is required- one in which we must all pull together with a right good will. To do this effectively, we need the stimulus of the exchange of ideas, we need to inform ourselves of the activities of our local leagues, as well of the larger movement outside. [The Virginia Suffrage News] should bind us together in one harmonious whole.”1

 

Mrs. Mary Pollard (G. Harvey) Clarke was the editor-in-chief of the paper, with Alice Overbey Taylor managing publication.

Imaged at the Library of VirginiaMay 2017

In January 1915, just three issues into publication of Virginia Suffrage News, the Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote, “The Virginia Suffrage News, the official organ of the State organization, which she [the editor] says is ‘suffering from suspended animation’ just now, but will resume publication in the near future.”2

The Library of Virginia holds originals of issues 1-3, published in October, November, and December 1914. While it is unsure if publication ever resumed, and how many issues were published in total, it seems likely that the only issues published are the three in the Library of Virginia’s collection. These issues are now digitized and can be read on Virginia Chronicle.

The paper followed a consistent format. Each issue contained editorials, dispatches from the various Virginia suffrage leagues, national news items relating to women’s suffrage, and information regarding both past and upcoming suffrage … read more »

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