Arthur C. Townley, founder of the Nonpartisan League, c.1915. Minnesota Historical Society
A.C. Townley & the Non-Partisan League
Arthur Charles Townley was born in Alexandria, Minnesota, in 1880, and after trying and failing to make a living as a farmer several times, ran for a seat in the North Dakota state senate in 1914 as a member of the Socialist Party of North Dakota. Townley lost, and in 1915 drove around the state of Minnesota in a Model-T car, signing up members for a new political party called the Non-Partisan League (NPL). The Nonpartisan League advocated state control of mills, grain elevators, banks and other farm-related industries in order to reduce the power of corporate political interests, most of which were located in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. By 1918 the NPL had over 200,000 members, and had elected Lynn Frazier, a member of the NPL, as North Dakota’s Governor. Eventually, the NPL was accused of fraud and socialist implications, and by 1921 the Non-Partisan League had fallen out of power.