Crane Papers Finding Aid





Cataloging of archival materials


Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum


Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum




The collection is arranged by boxes with subseries folders

Biography or History

Charles Richard Crane was born in Chicago in 1858 and worked at the family firm of Crane Company, one of the largest manufacturers of plumbing and related supplies in the world. He was the company's vice-president from 1894 until 1912 when, on his father’s death, he became its president. Two years later Crane sold most of his holdings to his brother Richard Teller Crane, Jr. The sale allowed him to pursue interests that were closer to his heart: a passion for travel, especially to remote and exotic places, philanthropic activities, and public service– from donating money to individuals and organizations to the erection of the only steel truss highway bridge in Saudi Arabia.
Charles R. Crane made his first trans-Atlantic crossing at the age of 19 and didn’t stop traveling until he was in his late seventies. Asia cast her spell upon him as a young man and he lived in Bokhara and Samarkand, eating the native food and making friends with everyone. Later he developed a strong interest in Slavic people and their culture, in the Balkans and various regions of the Ottoman Empire. Other areas of the Near East and later of Asia were also on his regular itinerary.
In 1909 he was appointed United State Minister to China, but Secretary of State Philander C. Knox forced his resignation prior to Crane's departure to China, creating a diplomatic cause célèbre. This episode severed any links Crane might have had with the administration of President William Howard Taft. On the other hand, it solidified his participation in the progressivism of Robert Marion LaFollette, and later of Woodrow Wilson under whose presidency he eventually served as Minister to China.
After the February 1917 Revolution in Russia, Crane agreed to serve on a special mission to Russia, headed by Elihu Root. The members of the Root Mission voiced, upon their return, a feeling that the Kerensky regime would prevail. There was one exception – Charles Richard Crane, who knew Russia better than the others.
In September 1918 Crane served on another fact-finding mission for the President: a trip to Asia that would include Japan, Korea, Manchuria and China. During this mission he was an eyewitness to some of the side effects of the civil war raging in Russian Siberia. He spent some time, in an unofficial capacity, at the Peace Conference in Paris before being appointed on April 30, 1919, as one of the two American commissioners on mandates to Turkey (later to be known as the King-Crane Commission).
He is remembered not only as the father of oil (chiefly because of his part in the King-Crane Commission investigation and report), but also as a godfather of an independent Czechoslovak state and a great contributor to the public welfare in all parts of the world. Charles Richard Crane died in 1939.

Other Descriptive Data

The Papers are organized in four series:
I. Charles Richard Crane Correspondence
II. Charles Richard Crane Professional and Research Activities
III. Photographs
IV. John O. Crane Papers

The series are further divided into several subseries

Scope and Content

The Papers of Charles Richard Crane (1858-1939) and his son John Oliver Crane (1899-1982) came to the Bakhmeteff Archive in two installments. In 1953 Crane’s son John deposited photocopies of a portion of his father’s archive with the Russian Archive at Columbia University, and in 2000 John’s wife, Sylvia E. Crane, donated all the original Charles Richard Crane materials as well as her late husband papers to the Bakhmeteff Archive.
The career, philanthropic, political, and personal aspects of Charles Richard Crane's life were closely intertwined. Among the correspondence of significance in the papers are letters to and from James Francis Abbott, Kathryn Newell Adams, Jane Addams, Edmund Henry Hynman Allenby, Edvard Benes, Boris III, King of Bulgaria, Louis Dembitz Brandeis, Nicholas Murray Butler, Frances F. Cleveland, Grover Cleveland, Archibald Gary Coolidge, Calvin Coolidge, John Dewey, Charles William Elliot, Hamlin Garland, William Rainey Harper, Jean-Jules Jusserand, William Lyon Mackenzie King, Alexander Kuprin, Robert Marion LaFollette, Seth Low, William Gibbs McAdoo, Jan Masaryk, Tomas Masaryk, Pavel Miliukov, John Pierpont Morgan, Alphonse Maria Mucha, Fridtjof Nansen, George Haven Putnam, John Davison Rockefeller Jr., Theodore Roosevelt, Upton Beall Sinclair, William Howard Taft, Lillian D. Wald, Herbert George Wells, Edith B. Wilson, Woodrow Wilson and other.
Crane's youngest son John Oliver Crane shared many of his father's interests. He was a historian and diplomat and for many years served as research and press secretary to the founding President of Czechoslovakia, Tomas G. Masaryk. Between the middle of June and early August 1921 he accompanied his father on his trips through Siberia and then European Russia. In 1930 he was entrusted in the management of the Institute of Current World Affairs, which was founded in 1926 but not endowed until 1930, when Charles Richard Crane transferred $1 million from his Friendship Fund.
The John O. Crane Papers include extensive correspondence with his father, letters from his brother Richard and original letters from Jan Masaryk, Alice Masaryk, Alexandra Tolstoy, Princess Sophie Troubetzkoy, Vladimir Tsanoff, K.S. Twitchell, F. Lloyd Black, Marie Tsanoff Stephanove, Joseph E. Davies, Laurence Moore, Bertram Thomas, Arthur Thorsen, John Gunther, Norman Hapgood, William E. Dodd, Alexander Pilenko, Richard F. Cleveland, Charles B. Nolte and others.
Manuscript and typed versions of John Crane's diaries for 1920 and 1921, especially his "Siberia Diary - 1921" (with 60 mounted original photographs) represent an invaluable source for the study of Russia in that turbulent period of its history. Another journey to Iraq and the Persian Gulf in 1921 with his father is detailed in typed copies of letters that John O. Crane had written to Walter S. Rodgers.
There is a considerable amount of material dealing with Czechoslovakia (notes on interviews with Benes, clippings and notes on Tomas, Jan and Alice Masaryk, and on Edvard Benes visit to the United States in 1943). Present also is material on activities of the American-Soviet Council (1943-1945) and of the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship, Inc. (1946-1948).




Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum Staff, “Crane Papers Finding Aid,” 1877-1986, MS100019, Crane Family Papers Collection, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.

Archival Finding Aid