World War I in Lawrence: Anti-German sentiment creeps into mayoral race

Local news reports show that anti-German sentiment infiltrated the Lawrence mayoral race of 100 years ago. The Lawrence Journal-World of Jan. 31, 1918, dropped a hint that there was “every indication that the pro-German candidate for mayor of Lawrence is soon to be announced. Of course he will not be mentioned as a pro-German by his friends, but they will know for what he stands and will be lined up for him.”

On March 9, the Journal-World announced that the January warning had “had the desired effect” and that no pro-German candidate was on the primary ballot. Describing the “Americanism” of the men running, the writer said they all had “taken their full part in the trying times of the present” and had “done all they could to help win the war.” The primary election on March 12 narrowed the field to W. E. Spalding and city treasurer George Kreeck.

In late March, the paper published a notice from Kreeck in which he retaliated against the opposition’s alleged campaign tactics. “All sorts of reports and stories have been circulated to the extent of viciousness,” Kreeck wrote. “That I am pro-German is ABSOLUTELY FALSE…. I am the son of American-born parents, a native Kansan, and an American first, last, and all the time. … If it is necessary to stoop to low, dirty politics to be elected, I would rather be defeated.” Spalding hit back with a detailed full-page ad on April 1, saying that “every man is responsible in large measure for what the general public thinks of his loyalty” and objecting to Kreeck’s efforts to “shift this burden on to me, and to appear to be persecuted, which he is not and never has been.”

Kreeck went on to win the mayoral election on April 2 by a “substantial majority” of 253 votes. The paper reported turnout of only about fifty percent, with “all apparently indifferent to the outcome” and the candidates “unable to overcome the apathy of the voters.”