World War I in Lawrence: Governor asks for schoolchildren’s help

On April 30, 1917, the Lawrence Daily Journal-World reported that Governor Arthur Capper had sent a letter to all Kansas schoolchildren, asking their help in “doing their bit toward winning the war.” Addressing them as “Dear Friends,” the governor made an urgent call for students to work in gardens, raise pigs or chickens, or test seeds for planting. “Our nation is going to need you, not as soldiers or seamen or army officers, but as producers of food and clothing,” the governor wrote. “Will you not honor yourselves, your state and your country by offering your services to the nation with the same willingness and feeling of patriotism as if you were Uncle Sam’s soldiers? In the true sense you can be his real soldiers, and the battle which you are to help win has already begun, namely, the battle for food products. The whole country must be fed….”

Pointing out that there were approximately 400,000 school children in the state, Capper asked that at least 300,000 of them “volunteer at once to grow such garden crops as sweet corn, tomatoes and string beans; to help can the surplus from all the gardens and orchards of your neighborhood; to raise a pen of chickens; to feed a pig; or to help increase our dairy products.” As an example, Capper offered the story of a 12-year-old girl in Jewell County who had won the State Gardening Prize for the most produce grown in a square rod (one rod being equal to 16.5 feet). The governor also pointed out that the children, with the help of their teachers, could test corn and sorghum seed for local farmers.

“Kansas can perform the greatest service to our country through agriculture. For this reason, I appeal to you boys and girls to rally to your call just as patriotically as the brave young men who are going to the front as soldiers,” wrote the governor. “It is just as important for you to do your part as producers as it is for these young men to do their part in the battles in which they may be placed.”