Willard D. Straight was born on January 31, 1880 in Oswego, New York. His father died in
1886; the next year Straight and his family moved to Japan. In 1890 his mother died and
he returned to Oswego. He attended Bordentown Military Institute in New Jersey, 1896-97,
and majored in architecture at Cornell University, 1897-1901.
In November 1901 he was appointed to a position with the Chinese Imperial Maritime
Customs Service, and from 1902-04 he was personal secretary to Sir Robert Hart,
Inspector General of the Service in Peking. Also in 1902, he illustrated VERSE AND WORSE
for J.O.P. Bland. In June 1905 he was appointed Vice-Consul under Edwin V. Morgan in
In June 1906 he was appointed Consul-General at Mukden, Manchuria. In 1909 he
illustrated HOUSEBOAT DAYS IN CHINA, again for Bland. That June he left the consular
service to represent J.P. Morgan and Company and other banks and investors, the American
In 1911, he married Dorothy Payne Whitney. They left China in 1912 when revolution broke
out, returning to the United States. Straight continued to encourage investment in China
through the American Asiatic Association, of which he became president in 1913. In 1914,
the Straights began publication of THE NEW REPUBLIC.
In 1915 Straight resigned from J.P. Morgan and was appointed third vice president of
American International Corporation. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1917. In 1918, while
arranging for the arrival of the American Peace Mission in Paris, Straight contracted
pneumonia, and he died on December 1, 1918.