Collection Scope and Content Note
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Microfilmed papers of Willard D. Straight consist of personal and official
correspondence, both original and typescript copies, and reports chiefly concerning his
association with the Chinese Imperial Customs Service (1902-04). Documented is his
employment with Reuters during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05); with the United States
Department of State in Korea and Manchuria (1904-09); and with Edward H. Harriman, Jacob
H. Schiff, and J.P. Morgan and Company (1904-09).
Letters and reports address in particular the interest of Theodore Roosevelt and William
Howard Taft in the Harriman-Schiff-Morgan proposals for investments in China from
1907-09; and concern Japanese diplomacy and finance, 1909-10; Straight's interest in THE
NEW REPUBLIC and the American Asiatic Association; his role in the "preparedness"
campaign in New York through the Mayor's Committee on National Defense (1915-17); his
connection with the American International Corporation (1916-18);
his conduct of joint purchasing operations for the French and British governments
through J.P. Morgan (1915-16); his efforts to establish the merit system in the State
Department career service; and his administration of the War Risk Insurance Bureau and
the establishment of its headquarters overseas (1918). In addition, there are many
letters to his wife, with comments on the Red Cross, U.S. Army promotional policies,
Pershing as a commander, and the American Expeditionary Force.
The collection also includes his diaries (1901-18), with transcriptions, reports, and
other papers about the development of railroads, waterways, and coal mines in China and
Manchuria, currency reform in China, the proposed international loan to China (1909-11),
and the Far Eastern situation in general. There are also books of clippings on the
Russo-Japanese War and other events in the Orient, and on the World War I work of Mr.
and Mrs. Straight.
Also many letters of condolence, memorials and memoirs written at the time of Straight's
death, and correspondence and reports about the building of Willard Straight Hall at
Non-microfilmed papers include documents on his parents and genealogy; Bordentown
Military Institute; military training; Cornell; George Collingwood Bennett, Straight's
valet, including photographs and memorabilia; tributes, publications, drafts,
inventories and seances following Straight's death; correspondence; and a diary.
Also included are photographs and photograph albums, postcards, and commercial views;
published and unpublished watercolors; pen, pencil, and crayon sketches; and charcoals
by Willard Straight. This includes student work such as architectural drawings,
watercolors, life drawings, and sketches for the CORNELLIAN and the WIDOW, two Cornell
newspapers. Also, artwork collected by the Straights, certificates, and maps.