War Governor.  It’s a term that we don’t tend to use anymore, as our military regiments are no longer based on states, such as the 35th Division (Kansas and Missouri) or the 89th Division (Kansas and Oklahoma.)  The governor is still the civilian head of the state National Guard, but the old term doesn’t quite seem to mean what it once did.

In World War I the term war governor fell to Arthur Capper, somewhat ironic as he was basically pacifistic in nature. Capper was born July 14, 1865 at Garnett, and would become one the leading publishers in Kansas and the nation. He turned his influence as a publisher into a political career which saw him as governor–the first native-born Kansan to hold the job (1915-1919)–and a United States Senator for thirty years (1919-1949).

As Governor-Elect, Capper served as the chairman of the Kansas Committee to Provide Relief for Belgium, raising six and a half million pounds of flour for the cause.

After his inauguration, Capper called for a statewide conference of local world peace groups to be held at Topeka. He would be chairman of Kansas Branch of League of Nations to Enforce Peace. He turned down an invitation from Henry Ford to sail abroad with others to mediate the end of the war.  His rejection of the invitation was due not so much because he wasn’t sympathetic to the cause, but because he felt he had a responsibility to Kansas to stay and be governor.

His hopes for the country to remain at peace held up until the declaration of war.  He declared January 27, 1917 as “Peace Sunday,” reflecting that hope.  While he often received criticism for his pacifism, he believed he reflected the view of most Kansans, and many Kansans accepted that view.  To deflect some of that criticism, he declared April 6, 1917 as “Loyalty Day in Kansas”–a move that proved ironic since it was the day Congress declared war on Germany.

Once war was declared, Capper turned his support to the successful prosecution of the war.  He was present when there were military ceremonies when Kansas troops were present.  He gave over 400 Liberty Loan speeches and other patriotic speeches.

When his term ended, his attention turned to his career in the Senate. He continued expanding his publishing career, which also included the purchase of radio station WIBW in Topeka. He worked and supported charities that benefited children

Capper died in Topeka on December 19, 1951.  He is buried in Topeka Cemetery with his wife, Florence, and his in-laws–which includes the third governor of the state, Samuel J. Crawford.


For additional information on Capper, see Homer Socolofsky’s Arthur Capper:  Publisher, Politician, and Philanthropist.


Blair Tarr is the Museum Curator of the Kansas State Historical Society. He oversees the three-dimensional collections of the Society, but has special interests in the Civil War, Wichita-made Valentine diners, and Leavenworth's Abernathy Furniture. In the last few years he has also done a lot of cramming on The Great War. He is a past president of the Kansas Museums Association and the Civil War Round Tables of both Kansas City and Eastern Kansas. He is currently a board member of the Heritage League of Greater Kansas City.