The Crawfordsville Library recently received a request from a woman in Georgia to find information about a hat she had found in her mother’s attic with an inside label that said, “Crawfordsville hatter.” Crawfordsville city directories were searched, and several shops were named as selling hats, such as George Graham’s, but none were named as the Crawfordsville hatter. Perhaps Virginia Cade or L.G. Coppage, two local milliners, could be our unnamed hatter. Little information on either person was available to us, and we thought we had hit a dead end. Another email appeared from our inquirer with a page from the Crawfordsville Weekly Journal that she had found on our online database for old newspapers, the “Hoosier State Chronicles.” This April 30, 1892 issue, on page four, shows a wonderful advertisement for Con Cunningham, “The One-Price Clothier, Hatter, Furnisher—Crawfordsville, Indiana.” Could this be our hatter?
Fast and furious research began for information available from our databases. Marriage and obituary records on Cornelius Cunningham were discovered. We looked in the local city directories and found that in 1878, he lived at at the Nutt’s Hotel, on the corner of Market and Green Streets, while he sold in the county. He later located his hat and clothing business at 101 and 103 S. Washington Street, at the intersection of Main Street. Soon, another email arrived with this picture of the inside of the hat. We were now sure that we had the right hatter!
Information we found about Mr. Cunningham told us that he had emigrated from Ireland around 1860 and moved to Crawfordsville around 1870. He began his business ventures by selling dry goods of all sorts throughout the county. After much success, he decided to have a permanent store in downtown Crawfordsville, and while there, became one of the most widely known and successful businessmen in the county. He married Mary McManus in 1882 and they raised three children together, according to census records. He later sold real estate, and owned business property here in town and in Indianapolis on Indiana Avenue. We found his burial at Holy Cross and Saint Joseph Cemetery on www.findagrave.com. From just one inquiry about a hat, with the resources available in our library, we were able to find out many things about Cornelius Cunningham, a hatter from Crawfordsville!