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newspaper publisher, Governor of Kansas, U.S. Senator
Arthur Capper was born in Garnett, Kansas, on July 14, 1865. He attended the local public schools, and graduated from Garnett High School in 1884. He married Florence Crawford in 1892.
Capper's interest in the printing and publishing business began when he was still a youngster, after getting a toy printing set as a Christmas present one year. He used that set to print business cards and other work for local businesses, and by the time he was a teenager had earned and saved a fair sum of money. He became a printer's apprentice at the Garnett Journal at age 14, and after high school became a typesetter at the Topeka Daily Capital. Quickly establishing himself as a valuable employee, he worked his way up the ladder to become an editor, and then a correspondent for the State Legislature and then the U. S. Congress before taking a job as a congressional correspondent for the New York Tribune.
Capper only spent a few years in New York before returning to Kansas with dreams of owning his own newspaper. He purchased the Topeka Mail in 1893 and the Topeka Breeze in 1895, and enjoyed great success with both. In 1901, the Topeka Capital went into foreclosure proceedings, and the bank that held its loans turned the paper's operations over to Capper, who subsequently purchased controlling interest. Over the years Capper started and purchased several other publications, including Capper's Weekly, Capper's Farmer, Household Magazine, Missouri Valley Farmer, Nebraska Farm Journal, Missouri Ruralist, Oklahoma Farmer. In 1927, he purchased WIBW, one of the first radio stations in the state, and in 1936 WIBW became one of the first stations to record regular congressional updates for distribution on the radio.
Already enjoying great success as a publisher, Capper decided to try his hand at politics and ran for Governor of Kansas in 1912. The first native-born Kansan to run for Kansas Governor, he lost the election to Georeg H. Hodges by a mere 29 popular votes. He ran again in 1914, and this time became the first native-born Kansas Governor; he was re-elected in 1918, and ultimately served from January 11, 1915 to January 13, 1919.
Prevented from running for a third term as Governor by the Kansas Constitution, Capper was elected to the U. S. Senate in 1918 and went on to serve five six-year terms (1919-1949). During his tenure he served as chairman of several committees, including Expenditures of the Department of Agriculture, Claims, the District of Columbia, and Agriculture and Forestry, and was an advocate for the agriculture industry. His most notable legislative achievement was the Capper-Volstead Act (officially known as the Co-Operative Marketing Associations Act) of 1922, which allowed producers of specific agricultural products to form voluntary unions and be exempt from anti-trust acts.
In addition to his publishing and political interests, Capper also served as President of the Board of Regents of Kansas State Agricultural College (now Kansas State University), 1910-1913. An advocate of children's welfare, he instituted a number of programs to assist Kansas youth. When a young reader of the Capital asked him for money to buy a pig, Capper responded by sending a check to cover both the purchase and upkeep, and started a series of programs that eventually merged to form the 4-H movement. And, to benefit children with disabilities, he founded the Capper Foundation for Crippled Children in Topeka in 1920.
Capper continued to operate his media empire until his death in Topeka on December 19, 1951; he is buried in Topeka Cemetery.
Capper's Weekly is still being published today, as Capper's, by Ogden Publications of Topeka. WIBW was authorized to operate a television station in 1953, and both the radio and television stations are still major media outlets. The Topeka Daily Capital is also still being published, as the Topeka Capital-Journal.
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This page was last updated on November 20, 2018.