The Great Kansas Bond Scandal

Robert Smith Bader

This book tells the story of the greatest public scandal in the history of the state of Kansas.

At the nadir of the Great Depression, in the summer of 1933, a million and a quarter in forged bonds and warrants were discovered in the state treasury and in bond brokerage houses. Before the affair was over, martial law was declared in the statehouse; four criminal convictions were effected—including the three longest sentences in the state's penal history; two state officers were impeached; six federal indictments were handed down, including one against the president of one of the Midwest's leading banks; a record number of civil suits jammed the courts; three banks closed permanently; a major Chicago brokerage firm went bankrupt; and one of the principals in the incident committed suicide. Political alliances had re-formed and regrouped, particularly in the progressive faction of the Republican Party. The honor, pride, and image of the state had been seriously, though not permanently, damaged.

“This book is as fascinating as a novel.”

Topeka Capital-Journal

“Not quite fifty years ago, the sky fell on Kansas. The revelation of the $1.25 million bond scandal in the summer of 1933 shook Kansans’ smug faith in the political purity of their state. Bader has an unerring instinct for choosing the pertinent incident and a fine touch in revealing character.”

Emporia Gazette
See all reviews...

The scandal was all the greater because the perpetrators, a freewheeling, charismatic con man named Ronald Finney and his father, W. W. Finney, were intimately involved with two of the state's best-known public figures, William Allen White and Alf Landon. Portions of the book focus on the actions and reactions of White and Landon as they struggled to separate their personal friendships from their public positions.

Robert Smith Bader examines the multi-faceted affair in fascinating detail, including the vigorous prosecution of the bond-scandal defendant, and, later, the dramatic behind-the-scenes attempts by the friends of Ronald Finney to obtain his release from the state penitentiary—efforts of a decidedly political nature.

This is more than an interesting tale of graft and skullduggery. In setting forth the financial, political, psychological, and personal costs of the episode, the author reveals much about the cultural history of America's puritanical heartland during the joyless years of the Depression.