Museum the New Llano Colony



Theodore Cuno

Birth: He was born on September 5, 1846 in Westphalen, Germany.

He had seen thousands of corpses and mutilated human beings in 1866 and 1870 while reporting on Count von Bismarck's Austro-Prussian War and reflected that he "would not wish to be cruelly murdered on a battlefield."

He left Germany in 1872 to get away from imperialism and militarism; then traveled around Europe for several years before marrying an American opera singer and ending up in New York City. He became a naturalized American citizen on October 12, 1877.  

Family Information: Married to Pauline (Miller) Cuno.

Father of Paulina (Cuno) Hemman and Rosebud Cuno (Cobb).

Other children who never lived in the colony included: daughters Staelf and Sunbeam who lived at home in 1892; son Roelants in 1910 worked as a newspaper journalist in NYC; daughter Violet in 1914 worked as a school teacher in NYC; son George H. in 1910 worked as a clerk in the spool silk industry in NYC; and son John lived at home in 1910.

Grandfather of Freddie Hemman.  

Description: "With careful and stately step, he goes from place to place, dressed in white, with white hair and beard"; a picturesque figure that Ann Tabb thought "looked as though he had just stepped from some picture frame" with a twinkle still in his eye that was very admirable. Some compared him to George Bernard Shaw, though it was unclear what he thought of that comparison.

Pre-Colony History:

He described his father (who had never lived in the colony) in one of his columns: "...the first seventeen years of my life were darkened by the religious table-talks of my orthodox father, who firmly believed in the advent of the Millennium coming from the clouds in his lifetime. (He died forty years ago, aged 74). And the Millennium is not here yet."

Cuno was an old revolutionist from the days of the forty-eighters; a former member of the First International (representing Dusseldorf and another German city group) and a personal friend of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. In one of his columns from 1931 he describes an 1872 trip aboard the channel steamer on the return trip from The Hague with Marx, Engels, the refugees of the Paris Commune and the delegates from America to the Congress of the International Workingmen's Association.

He chose his moment and asked Marx, "What is to be the future form of Cooperation?" The father of modern socialism, not being a "good sailor" did not feel all too well and advised him, "My dear boy, ask me an easier one, all I can tell you just now is that some day, sooner or later, Capitalism will be replaced by universal cooperation; about the details no one knows anything now, but see if Engels will talk about it."

Engels, a good sailor, stroked his red beard, topped with a brilliant red nose and said, "Say, Cuno, you read up on the utopias of Plato, Rousseau, Moore, Bacon, Campanella and all the other dreamers, like Robert Owen, Fourier and Saint Simon who imagined things that never became true. However, I think that we'll win out and that within the next twenty years the social revolution will sweep capitalism from the face of the earth. That's all I'll say now and therefore, let's drink some more!" And they did.


He followed Engels' advice and studied the works of the Utopians, but through all those works failed to see anything that resembled his own ideas of what a co-operative community should be like until he read Wooster's advertisement in Frank Harris' monthly, saying that "We of Llano Colony don't worry etc. etc." That was enough for him and after some correspondence he sold his house, packed up and joined the colony.

In 1928, Cuno was recognized by the colonists during their Labor Day celebration as having "practically inaugurated the observance of Labor Day in the U.S., by writing the first call for its celebration in New York City, which resulted in a parade of thirty thousand workers in September of 1882," while he was serving as statistician of the General Assembly of the Knights of Labor in that city. Read a clipping from the "Vernon Parish Democrat" dated September 2, 1920.

As the city editor of the "New York Volkzeitung" he associated with many important people of the time, including three former U.S. presidents -- Ulysses S. Grant, Chester A. Arthur and Grover Cleveland. In 1886-87 he reported on the trial (and attended the hanging of four of them) of the men condemned for the Haymarket Affair in Chicago -- in the first "Red Scare" in America, the police had arrested eight prominent Chicago anarchists and found them guilty of conspiracy to murder, despite the fact that there was no evidence tying these men to the actual bombing.

He and his wife left New York on November 19, 1920 to throw in their lot with the colony, even though he had been advised that the colony was on the verge of failure and unless he could make an immediate loan to the colony, they were soon to be evicted by the Gulf Lumber Company. He did what he was asked to do, not only in 1920 when he joined, but every time afterwards, making loans or gifts of money to the colony whenever it was necessary, until he was left with nothing, his few comforts being provided by the colony according to an agreement he'd made with Pickett.

Home in Colony: In 1928, after the death of his wife (1925), he lived at the Rice Ranch and sometimes helped out with the cooking, one article reports he made delicious turtle soup from several large turtles caught in the main irrigation canal; another time the delicacy on the chef's menu featured four gigantic bullfrogs caught in the pond.

In December 1932 he was listed as one of the Rice Ranch (near Elton, LA) workers.  

Job in Colony:

Cuno and his wife worked in the library, donating many of their own books -- he reported in February 1923 there were 5,000 volumes in the library.

In 1923 the Commonwealth College Association designated a teaching faculty of Job Harriman, Kate O'Hare, Howard Buck, F.M. Goodhue, Frank O'Hare, Wilbur C. Benton, Theodore Cuno, Ernest Wooster, Harold Z. Brown, Ivy Van Etten, and William E. Zeuch.

In 1930 he was listed on the US Census as being a journalist for the colony. For many years he wrote the column "Thought and Action from the Rice Ranch" for the "Llano Colonist".  

Other Info: In February 1928 he wrote in his column: By some perfectly sweet and well-meaning friend I have been asked to give up my pipes, tobacco and cigars, because she thinks they hurt me and give a "bad example" to our boys and girls, but if I could and would do that, after having been a 'tobacco fiend' for more than seventy years, what would be left for me to 'enjoy'? The parsons and bum politicians have taken wine and whiskey away from me; death has deprived me of my mate, capitalism keeps my children away from me and the colony has all I ever 'saved'. I now have not even one room to myself, as I am bunking with others who don't permit privacy. No, dearie, don't be so cruel as to make me renounce my only physical comforter. I have not even anybody to kiss me! But if everything proceeds according to schedule, the last pipe I am to smoke twenty-four hours before my funeral, will be taken from my sagging jaw by either Anna Tabb or Esther Allen, who fondly loves to scent the smoke from a good cigar. Cuno

In November 1929 the Rice Ranch house was temporarily serving more or less as a hospital There had been five recent cases of sickness, some of them serious. Leslie Hopkins was abed with nervous prostration, too feeble to rise or walk; Anna Yeldell had been down for several days with a severe and painful catarrh of throat and lungs; Violet Dix was suffering from incipient catarrh; her boy had had the chicken pox and therefore stayed from school; and Cuno had been troubled with a persistent attack of bronchitis.

In April 1932 Sam Klette brought in some pecans which he sold first to Harry Nesnow, charging 5 cents a pound; then both he and Harry tried to "soak" Cuno when he offered them for 6 cents per pound, though this effort was all in fun.

Cuno shared his memories of the first Labor Day Parade ever held in New York City in the "Llano Colonist", September 15, 1928: "While I write this on Labor Day, I vividly remember that first Labor Day of forty-six years ago when 30,000 sturdy, organized workers marched from the New York City Hall, through Broadway up to Union Square, red flags waving and the bands playing the Marseillaise! Since those days Labor Day has degenerated to hot-dog picnics and an orgy of meaningless shouting by peanut politicians. And it has ever been thus: Sic transit gloria mundi -- This is the way the cat had its whiskers shaved off. What a pity! CUNO"

Post-Colony History:  

Death: He died at the age of 88 years in March, 1934 in the home of George Pickett where he had been staying for the previous year and a half. Only the evening before, a doctor had been called in who had assured his friends that he was in exceptionally good condition for his age.  

Sources: Reno Evening Gazette: August 22, 1892; "Vernon Parish Democrat": January 24, 1920; "Llano Colonist": February 25, 1928, April 14, 1928, June 2, 1928, June 9, 1928, September 15, 1928, August 24, 1929, November 2, 1929, November 23, 1929, October 25, 1930, April 23, 1932, July 9, 1932, December 10, 1932, March 4, 1933, March 25, 1933, April 11, 1933 (Reprinted from the Colonist May 17, 1924), March 31, 1934; New York Census: 1892, 1915; US Census: 1910, 1930; "Radical Education in the Rural South; Commonwealth College 1922-1940" by William H. Cobb  


Clipping from the Reno Evening Gazette dated August 22, 1892.
Clipping from the "Reno Evening Gazette" dated August 22, 1892.

Theodore Cuno
Theodore Cuno

Clipping from the Vernon Parish Democrat dated January 24, 1920.
Clipping from the "Vernon Parish Democrat" dated January 24, 1920.

Theodore Cuno in 1933, not too long before his death.
Theodore Cuno in 1933, not too long before his death.

Pickett's Tribute to Cuno (Clipping from Llano Colonist)
Pickett's Tribute to Cuno (Clipping from Llano Colonist)

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