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George T. Anthony

Politician, governor. Republican. Born: June 9, 1824, Mayfield, New York. Died: August 5, 1896, Topeka, Kansas. Served as 7th Governor of Kansas: January 8, 1877, to January 13, 1879.

George AnthonyGeorge Tobey Anthony, a Leavenworth newspaperman, moved to Kansas from New York in November 1865, at age 41. After a single term in the governor's office, he served in the state legislature and on the State Board of Railroad Commissioners. Anthony died in Topeka on August 5, 1896.

George T. Anthony was born on a farm June 9, 1824, at Mayfield, New York, to Benjamin and Anna Odell Anthony. The youngest of four siblings, he was primarily educated during the winter months at the local county school. His parents were active members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) and were staunch advocates of freedom and abolition during the Jacksonian era. His father died in 1829 and the Anthony family was left well enough financially to start anew. When Anthony was nine his family moved to Greenfield, New York, where he attended school during the winter months and worked for local farmers during the summer. At the age of 12 he began an apprenticeship in the tin and coppersmith trade; at 16 he began work at his uncle’s shop at Union Springs, New York, as an apprentice tinner and coppersmith; he often worked up to 14 hours a day. Upon completing his apprenticeship he opened his own tin shop in Medina, New York.

Anthony married Rosa A. Lyon in 1852; they had one son. Anthony had a commission business in New York City, which lasted until the start of the Civil War.

In 1862 Governor Edwin Morgan of New York summoned Anthony as an induction committee member to raise and organize troops in the 28th district composed of Orleans, Niagara, and Genesee counties. He organized the 17th Independent Battery of Light Artillery in less than four days. Anthony was commissioned captain of the organization when it was called into service on August 26, 1862, and later became brevet major. While in command of the battery he served between Washington, D.C., and Richmond and later was attached to the 18th Corps when fighting in the front trenches during the Battle of Petersburg Crater, Virginia, in 1864. At the end of the war, Captain Anthony played a minor role in the 24th Corps in the Appomattox Campaign that ended in the surrender of General Robert E. Lee. During the war years Anthony often philosophized on the principles and execution of war battle plans that argued for harsh aggression in putting down the rebellion. He regarded Generals George Brinton McClellan and Benjamin F. Butler weak and unassertive in execution but thought General Ulysses S. Grant to be a grand military tactician of the age, a soldier of courage and skill that ensured an imminent end to the war. Anthony left the army on June 12, 1865, at Richmond, Virginia, and in November that same year moved to Leavenworth, Kansas, for permanent residence.

Shortly after his arrival in Leavenworth he became editor of the Leavenworth Evening Bulletin and the Leavenworth Daily Commercial. He bought Kansas Farmer, which he published for six years. He used the medium of the Kansas Farmer to highlight and promote the culture of diversified farming in Kansas.

Anthony became involved in the community and in 1867 was named a member of the board of commissioners for the Care Destitute Orphans and Children of Soldiers of the State. In December 1867 he was appointed an assistant assessor within the U. S. Bureau of Internal Revenue and commissioned a collector of internal revenue on July 11, 1868. He served as president of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture and president of the board of centennial managers in 1876 for a state exhibit at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Anthony motivated the board to create an image of Kansas as a land of prosperity and bountiful crops, a homestead of endless opportunity rather than a bleeding, starving, drought-stricken, and grasshopper-infested state. The board convinced the state legislature to spend nearly four per cent of the annual state budget to erect a Kansas exhibit building in Philadelphia to promote, in elaborate fashion, the abundance of Kansas’ agriculture.

That same year Anthony was nominated by the Republican State Convention for the office of governor. The 1876 campaign was politically charged and contentious for Anthony as many of his rivals accused him of cowardice while serving in the Army of the Potomac. The state Republican Central Committee investigated the vicious charge but found no evidence to support it and refused to drop him from the ticket. The decision to keep Anthony was ultimately ratified by the people in the election of November 1876; Anthony was elected governor by a plurality of nearly 23,000 votes. However, the name Anthony alone greatly boosted his credentials and popularity because of his famous cousin, suffragette Susan B. Anthony, the sister of Leavenworth publisher D. R. Anthony.

Governor Anthony was known for his extraordinary public speaking and debating skills; he was the first Kansas governor to address the state legislature orally. Not long after the patent on the telephone was issued to Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, the first telephones were installed in Kansas. The newly-elected governor began using it for expedient communications across the state. But Anthony’s administration wasn’t without issues. The Grasshopper panic of 1874 still plagued the economy. Anthony prioritized the administration’s budget to effect programs that required little or no state funding, established a state reformatory for younger criminals and a state commissioner of fisheries, and advocated a stronger temperance movement in government. The greatest crisis for Anthony was the railroad strike of 1877. He dispatched the state militia to Emporia to quell the uprisings and protect private property. However, when a soldier accidentally killed a Congregational minister during the crisis, Anthony promptly recalled the militia and assumed full responsibility and advocated for immediate calm. This debacle gave much ammunition to his opponents in the governor’s re-election in 1879. Anthony did have an advantage in the 1878 Republican State Convention, but his votes only peaked at 106 after 17 ballots. The governor’s chief competition was John Pierce St. John and John A. Martin, each of whom had substantial support in his own right. In the end Anthony broke the impasse by giving his votes to St. John thus giving him the nomination.

After Anthony’s governorship, he managed a Pottawatomie County farm and invested in railroads. He was made general superintendent of the Mexican Central Railroad from 1881 to 1883. In 1884 he was elected to represent Leavenworth County in the state legislature and he was an active member of the State Railroad Commission, now the Kansas Corporation Commission, from 1889 to 1893. He was the Republican nominee for Congressman-at-large in 1892, but was defeated by William A. Harris. Anthony was a delegate to the Trans-Mississippi Congress at New Orleans in 1892, and was appointed superintendent of insurance by Governor E. N. Morrill in 1895; he held this office until his death in 1896.

The family home remained in Ottawa where he served for many years the editor of the weekly and daily Republican. Anthony was a superb orator. He was logical but forcible and impressed his listeners by his sound earnestness. He was often criticized, but his honor and integrity remained above reproach in the eyes of many of his peers and constituents. It’s been said that Anthony’s greatest feats were editing the Kansas Farmer and his broad vision as president of the board of centennial managers. The pioneer farmers of Kansas prior to the late 1870s were considered unskilled in managing farm affairs. At the time, corn, edible and feed, was the only crop produced. The Kansas Farmer taught diversified farming; economy in agricultural production, especially in wheat grain; improvements in livestock management; and higher regard for home and social life. The centennial exhibit at Philadelphia in 1876 made a grand advertisement greatly promoting Kansas’ vast agricultural potential, with the help of Anthony’s futuristic vision.

A severe diabetic, he died on August 5, 1896, of pneumonia and was buried in the Topeka Cemetery.

Entry: Anthony, George T.

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: June 2011

Date Modified: February 2017

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.