Politician, newspaperman, children's advocate. Republican. Born: July 14, 1865, Garnett, Kansas. Married: Florence Crawford, December 1, 1892. Died: December 19, 1951, Topeka, Kansas. Served as 20th Governor of Kansas: January 11, 1915, to January 13, 1919. Served in U.S. Senate: March 4, 1919, to January 3, 1949.
Arthur Capper was born July 14, 1865, in Garnett, Kansas, to Herbert and Isabella (McGrew) Capper. At the age of 14 he became a “printer’s devil” with the Garnett Journal. After graduation from high school Capper went to work as a typesetter for the Topeka Daily Capital. Worked his way up at the newspaper, he became an editor and served as correspondent for the state legislature and U.S. Congress. On December 1, 1892, Capper married Florence Crawford, daughter of Governor Samuel Crawford, for whom Florence, Kansas, was named.
In search of broader experience, Capper left Kansas and took a position with the New York Tribune. He later worked as a congressional correspondent in Washington, D.C., before returning to his native state. In 1893 and 1895 Capper purchased two Topeka newspapers Mail and Breeze. When the Daily Capital suffered financial difficulties, Capper was encouraged to return as editor and publisher. In 1901 he purchased controlling interest and reestablished the newspaper. By 1911 the Saturday Evening Post called Capper’s Capital “one of the best and brightest dailies in the West.”
Capper was defeated by a slim margin in his only unsuccessful campaign as the Republican candidate for governor in 1912. Two years later he was elected the 20th governor of Kansas, the first native-born Kansan to hold the office. He served two terms, 1915 to 1919. Capper served five terms as U.S. senator, 1919 to 1949.
In 1927 Capper purchased WIBW, among the first radio stations in the state. An advocate of children’s welfare, Capper established a number of events and programs to assist the state’s youth. The Capper birthday party was a popular summer event from 1908 until 1951, when the flood forced its cancellation. He established agricultural clubs that loaned money to students so they could start modest businesses. These clubs eventually merged into the 4-H movement. To benefit children with disabilities, Capper formed a foundation in Topeka in 1920. He also organized the Goodfellows’ Club of Topeka.
Capper became one of the nation’s leading publishers of the decade and was featured on the cover of Time magazine in 1926. He served as chair of the Senate’s agriculture and forestry committees during the 80th Congress, and chose not to seek reelection in 1948. Capper died December 19, 1951, in Topeka.
It is our duty to see that our future citizens are well born; . . . and are reared in that environment most likely to develop in them their full capacity and powers.—Arthur Capper
Entry: Capper, Arthur
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: June 2003
Date Modified: January 2016
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