Museum the New Llano Colony

Theodore Cuno

Birth: Born on September 5, 1846 in Westphalen, Germany. He left Germany in 1872 to get away from imperialism and militarism. He became a naturalized American citizen on October 12, 1877.  

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: Cuno was an old revolutionist from the days of the forty-eighters; a former member of the First International and a personal friend of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. In his earlier years he had been a mechanical engineer.

He described his father (who 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."

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.

Also, while living in New York, he associated with many important people of the time, including three former U.S. presidents -- Ulysses S. Grant, Chester A. Arthur and Grover Cleveland. He and his wife left New York, where he had been city editor of the "New York Volkzeitung", on November 19, 1920 to throw in their lot with the colony.  

Family Information: Married to Pauline Cuno.

Father of Paulina (Cuno) Hemman and Rosebud Cuno (Cobb). Other children who never lived in the colony include: 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 living at home in 1910.

Grandfather of Freddie Hemman.  

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".  

Home in Colony: In 1928, after the death of his wife (1925), he was living 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 was listed as one of the Rice Ranch (near Elton, LA) workers.  

Other Info: 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: Died at the age of 88 years in March, 1934 at the home of George Pickett where he had been staying for the past 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: "Vernon Parish Democrat": January 24, 1920; "Llano Colonist": February 25, 1928, April 14, 1928, June 2, 1928, September 15, 1928, August 24, 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  

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

Top Right: Theodore Cuno

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