Arthur Capper, of Topeka, Kan., whose name has become familiar to a million or more readers through the different Capper publications, is a conspicuous example of the self-made man, having advanced unaided and by his own efforts and industry to the position of leading publisher of the West. In this, his native state, he is recognized as one of the builders of Kansas, and as a young man who has dedicated his useful life to the advocacy of those principles and material things which have made the state preëminent in the nation. Born in Garnett, Anderson county, in 1865, Arthur Capper's first recollections are of the stories of the days when the settlers along the eastern border were fighting for free government. He was a student at the feet of the pioneers who had fought the good fight and started Kansas on her first half-century of history, a record in state building that is the pride and glory of every citizen. Thus, in his boyhood, he grasped the Kansas spirit and early became an advocate of the principles and policies which have made it one of the most progressive commonwealths of the Union. Throughout the whole of his active career he has ever been loyal to the state of his birth, a Kansan whose efforts have been devoted to the betterment of his state and its people, and who, in turn, has received from them the inspiration of their remarkably progressive spirit. The parents of Mr. Capper were among the first settlers of Anderson county, and Herbert Capper, the father, a native of England, was one of the founders of Garnett. In 1870, with several other Kansans, he organized the town of Longton, in Elk county, naming it for his birthplace in England. He lived there only a short time, when he returned to Garnett, where he and his wife died. They were buried in Garnett cemetery. The surviving children are: Arthur and Mary, who reside in Topeka, and Edith, the wife of A. L. Eustice of Chicago. The parents were faithful members of the Quaker church and in the family circle the language of that religious organization was used in the daily conversation. They were excellent people, of strong minds and good character, and their son grew to manhood under excellent influences. It was in this Christian home that Arthur Capper was taught the lessons of honesty, morality, industry, temperance and self-reliance, which traits of character have been the foundation of his splendid success. That those early Christian influences and teachings were indelibly impressed upon his mind is attested by the countless articles that have appeared in his publications in behalf of all religious movements and right living. The school days of Mr. Capper were spent in Garnett, where he received every advantage its splendid schools afforded. His father, while not discounting the value of an education, entertained the old-fashioned notion that a boy should carve out his own destiny and rely on his own resources, and that a knowledge of the great schools of life was of equal importance. He therefore taught him to earn his own money and to save it. A very little thing often serves as the inspiration that shapes the destiny of men. While yet a mere lad Mr. Capper received as a Christmas present a little toy printing press, which, as years have passed, remains his most cherished and valued gift. With this little outfit he began his career as a publisher, for with it he printed cards and did other little odd jobs for merchants, saving up several dollars. Before he was fourteen years of age he entered upon an apprenticeship in the printing business in the office of the "Garnett Journal," his wages to begin with amounting to one dollar per week. His first work was the job of inking the forms of an old Washington hand press. He continued to work on the "Garnett Journal" until 1884, when he secured a position on the "Daily Capital" at Topeka. Up to that time his work had all been during spare hours out of school, during part of the afternoons, evenings and Saturdays. He allowed his studies to suffer no neglect, however, and always stood at the head of his classes. He looks back to those days of training in Garnett as the most important epoch in his early life, and remembers with love and gratitude the precept, example and Christian influences thrown around him by his good Quaker father and mother. Next to the parent, the teacher who trains a boy's mind is best qualified to speak of his real character. Prof. J. B. Robison, now living at Lawrence at the advanced age of eighty-four, taught for many years in the Garnett schools and was close to the boyhood life of Mr. Capper. From this old teacher comes this tribute: "I knew the family well and I am familiar with the principles inculcated in his mind by his parents from childhood until he completed the high school course in Garnett in 1884. The principles taught at home and through the high school course were morality, honesty, truthfulness, industry, justice to all, and good, intelligent citizenship. As I had charge of the school for a number of years I had a good opportunity to know the foundation upon which Mr. Capper started and built his success. I kept a private record of the deportment and average per cent. of all my pupils in their studies on final examination, and have that record now. He stood perfect in the former and 98 per cent. in the latter. He understood the purpose of schools and prepared his mind while under a tutor for intelligent and active work when he entered the business world." While mastering the trade he had chosen, an ambition arose to become a writer for the press, and while still a youth he twice captured a first prize for the best letter. The first prize was won in the "New York Tribune" and the second in the "Topeka Capital." Such was Mr. Capper's steady progress toward an ultimate purpose and ultimate success. At the age of eighteen he started to make his own way in the world. As stated, he went to Topeka, in 1884, to work as a type-setter for the "Daily Capital." The foreman found him a good workman, always to be depended upon, and with habits of sobriety and industry. True worth seldom fails of recognition. Mr. Capper soon gained the notice of Major Hudson, the founder and owner of the "Capital," who lent him every possible encouragement. Ambitious to become an all-round newspaper man he applied for and was given a position as a reporter. It was not long until he was made city editor of the paper, a position which fully tested his capacity for work, and it was during these years that the industry, economy and attention to detail, taught him by his parents, were counted by his employer as his chief asset. His first work that gave him state-wide acquaintance was in 1889, when he took the job of reporting the legislative proceedings for the "Capital." It is perhaps the most complete, concise and accurate report of its kind ever published in a Kansas newspaper, or, for that matter, in any other. In 1893 came his first venture in independent newspaper work when he purchased the "North Topeka Mail" from Frank A. Root. For two years he was his own editor, reporter, business manager and advertising solicitor, and also had charge of all the mechanical work on his paper. For a time he published the "Mail" as a local paper, but later it was merged with the "Breeze," which he purchased from Thomas McNeal in 1897. When he acquired the "Topeka Daily Capital," in 1901, he had but $2,000 of the purchase price, his remaining capital consisting of the confidence he had established in the minds of different financiers, who had observed and weighed the character of the man during his career in Topeka and who were ready to assist him, having absolute confidence in his integrity and ability to pay off the remaining indebtedness. There came discouraging times, but he had a faith in the future and believed that industry and a policy that stood for the real spirit of Kansas and the high ideals of her people would win. That his hopes have been fully realized is attested by the remarkable growth of his business. Kansas is potentially an agricultural state. Mr. Capper realized that and foresaw, before the agricultural press of the country had attained the importance it now has, the splendid opportunities open to the publisher of a strong agricultural paper. In 1903 he followed up his judgment by converting the "Mail and Breeze," then one of the most successful and prosperous political and pictorial news weeklies with more than a statewide reputation, into "Farmers' Mail and Breeze," now the leading farm and live stock journal of Kansas. He made the change suddenly, and it took genius and courage to put it through, but subsequent events have more than justified the wisdom of it. In a class of nearly 500 agricultural publications "Farmers' Mail and Breeze" ranks as one of the twelve leading journals of its kind in the United States. With characteristic originality and energy he set about making it alive with interest and with real practical usefulness, and to-day it is welcomed as a personal friend in more than 100,000 homes. Since then he has assumed the publication of other farm papers, though they are not so well known in Kansas. These other agricultural papers are the "Missouri Valley Farmer," which has over 350,000 subscribers; "Nebraska Farm Journal," a semi-monthly, and the "Missouri Ruralist," a weekly published in Kansas City, Mo. The "Kansas Weekly Capital," the weekly edition of the "Daily Capital," with 100,000 circulation, goes chiefly into farm homes. Every month the total issue of the several Capper publications reaches the extraordinary figure of 3,000,000 copies. A carload of printed papers is put through the Topeka postoffice every two days, and Mr. Capper pays as postage to Uncle Sam the sum of $125,000 a year. There are over 600 people on the Capper payroll in Topeka, and next to the Santa Fe Railway Company, whose shops and general offices are located there, he pays out more money to labor than any other interest in the city, if not in the state. His capacity for work is tremendous and his mastery detail marvelous, for he keeps in intimate touch with every department of this immense business. One of several Eastern writers who have come to Topeka to inspect the methods Mr. Capper has employed in his successful career, in discussing the fine building which houses the Capper publications, said: * * * It is five stories high, 75x130 feet, absolutely fireproof, built of Bedford stone, terra cotta, steel and concrete equipped with every convenience of a modern publishing plant, rest room, shower baths, restaurant, assembly room, etc. The total cost of the plant and equipment was $355,000. The different departments are equipped with thoroughly modern facilities for handling the work, * * * " Mr. Capper is not all business. There is a personal side to his character and a very tender and sympathetic one, as demonstrated by the many benefactions and charities bestowed by him upon the sick and afflicted. He is not only a benefactor to those in suffering and distress, but his thoughtful interest also extends to the welfare of his fellows who need a cheering word, the benizon of hope, and the sunshine that brightens their existence. No one can doubt his love and interest in little children, for one of his keenest pleasures is to contribute to their happiness and development. More than 6,000 boys and girls each year call at his office and secure a supply of free flower seed. which they are to plant and cultivate with their own hands, under directions furnished them. Prizes are awarded to the most successful growers, and thus they are encouraged to gain a practical knowledge of the cultivation of flowers, and at the same time a development of their aesthetic nature takes place. To foster the spirit of unselfishness and of kindly deeds the children are encouraged to become the co-workers of Mr. Capper in providing flowers for the sick, in the hospitals and in their homes, his flower automobile making many trips for that purpose, from the middle of June until the middle of September. Another annual event which the children in and about Topeka look forward to with pleasure is the picnic which he gives 10,000 of them at Vinewood park. "Whosoever will may come" to these entertainments, arranged and paid for by Mr. Capper for the little folks. He knows the longing and desire of the childish heart, and so provides innocent games, amusements, and music that will mark the picnic as a red-letter day in the lives of all the children present. Among the boys and girls who are his guests at each picnic are nearly 2,000 poor children who, at every Christmas time, are remembered by him with a useful present. He organized the Good Fellows' Club and appealed to the citizens of Topeka to join him in distributing toys, candy, and clothing to the needy children of the city. He personally took the lead in this splendid movement and asked his friends to go into the by-ways and seek out the children of the poor, that they might be remembered on the Christmas holiday with a substantial token of esteem and good will. He also collects magazines and periodicals, which are distributed to the various hospitals, orphans' homes, and other charitable institutions of the city. Very few people in Topeka know that Mr. Capper provides an automobile every week, through the spring and summer months, for a ride for the old ladies of Ingleside Home. This benefaction, like all his others, is bestowed without ostentation or display. Mr. Capper was married, in 1892, to Florence Crawford, daughter of ex-Gov. Samuel J. Crawford. His wife is also a native Kansan, Topeka being her birthplace. Politically, Mr. Capper is a Republican and has been allied unreservedly with the progressive element of his party. Recognizing the unusual ability and strength of character of the man, an army of loyal friends are urging his candidacy for governor, in 1912. During his busy life Mr. Capper has taken an active interest in many national movements for civic betterment and progress. He has been a student of all the great questions that have been advanced in the interest of better government, and through his publications, and personally, he has been a valued helper. Among the national organizations of which he is an active member may be mentioned the National Municipal League, the National Conservation Association, the American Sociological Society, the National Tariff Commission Association, the National Conference of Charities and Corrections, the American Economic Association, the International Tax Association, and the National Civic Federation. He is a director of the Kansas State Historical Society and has been one of its active and influential members for years. He was president of the Kansas State Editorial Association in 1909, is now president of the Board of Regents of the Kansas State Agricultural College; is a director of the Young Men's Christian Association of Topeka, and a member of the executive committee of the state association. He was chairman of the local committee which recently raised $50,000 in ten days for the Young Men's Christian Association building in Topeka. Fraternally, he is a member of the Ancient Order of United Workmen, the Modern Woodmen of America, the Knights and Ladies of Security, and the United Commercial Travelers. In concluding this sketch, the opinion of the Eastern writer, previously quoted, is here given: "Men are judged by their achievements. They are honored only in a degree which is made justifiable by their ability. But when a big, generous-hearted man has a long string of real achievements to his credit, humanity, in its greed for personal fame, is prone to lump them off as bargains, feeling that, well, maybe, some of it was due to luck. Men like Arthur Capper do not travel successward by any easy road. It takes charactertruly great qualities you find in all really self-made men."Pages 64-69 from volume III, part 1 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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