Shank’s Take: A President Visits the Kansas State Fair

The eyes of the nation and world were on Hutchinson June 23, 1923, as the Salt City and Kansas State Fair made final preparations to welcome President Warren G. Harding to Reno County. 

Arriving in Hutchinson by train promptly at 10 a.m., the presidential motorcade whisked the nation’s chief executive to what is now George Pyle Park for a speech to 8,000 Kansas school children. After dedicating Hutchinson’s Salt Mine, the President traveled to Rayl’s Hill to participate in the wheat harvest  before returning to the Bisonte Hotel for a reception and lunch. The next stop was the Kansas State Fair. 

President Warren G. Harding

According to the Hutchinson News, a crowd of more than 13,000 were wedged into the grandstands at the Kansas State Fair (1,000 over capacity) by 1 p.m. in anticipation of the President’s arrival. 

Accompanying Harding to the fairgrounds was Kansas Senator Arthur Capper, who a year earlier had joined forces with Minnesota Congressman Andrew Volstead, to draft the Capper-Volstead Act, which allowed the formation of farm cooperatives, legislation signed into law in 1922 by Harding. 

Capper had a special connection to the Kansas State Fair. Nine years earlier, while serving as Kansas Governor, he personally funded construction for the House of Capper on the fairgrounds to provide a venue for fairgoers to relax and enjoy a cold glass of water. Also, it is reputed that the House of Capper was the site for great political speeches. 

The original House of Capper

Arriving on the fairgrounds, the President was greeted with a 21-gun salute. Southwestern Bell installed loudspeakers in the grandstand to amplify Harding’s remarks and shortly after 2:30 p.m., the President was front and center to deliver his remarks. 

Farmers in attendance were wildly supportive of the President and interrupted him throughout the speech with thunderous applause. 

Harding reviewed measures taken by Congress to improve farm prices including the Capper-Volstead Act, along with other legislation designed to enhance farm credit. 

“This legislation, when carried out, will be capable of furnishing the American farmers, for the first time in the history of agriculture, adequate investment and working capital in favorable terms,” Harding said. 

President Harding Signing the Capper-Volstead Act

As the clock struck 5 p.m., the presidential train departed Hutchinson for Denver, its next stop on a national tour, which included a visit to Alaska. 

On August 2, 1923, while still on tour in San Francisco, Harding died suddenly. To honor Harding, several days later, a memorial service honoring the President was held in Hutchinson’s Memorial Hall. It is reported the hall was packed to the rafters. 

Capper would go on to serve 26 more years in Congress before his death in 1949.

Arthur Capper with prize winning corn at the Kansas State Fair

Following a complete rebuild of the House of Capper, the Kansas State Fair will rededicate this true landmark July 21 on the fairgrounds. 

Like 100 years ago, there is lots happening at the Kansas State Fair in 2023 and, from all indications, we have only just begun. Stay tuned for more good news to come. 

-Richard Shank

The newly rebuilt House of Capper
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