Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Crane Family Papers, 1877-1986

Summary Information

At a Glance

Call No.: BA#0542
Bib ID 11048740 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Crane family
Title Crane Family Papers, 1877-1986
Physical Description 48 linear feet (43 document boxes 1 record container 22 flat boxes)
Language(s) English .
Access You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located on-site.

Donor's permission in writing is required for access and publication. Please contact Tom Crane (tom.crane@usa.net) to request permission.



The collection is arranged into five series and into several subseries.



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).

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located on-site.

Donor's permission in writing is required for access and publication. Please contact Tom Crane (tom.crane@usa.net) to request permission.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Crane Family Papers; Box and Folder; Bakhmeteff Archive, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Selected Related Material -- at Columbia

Charles Richard Crane Papers, Bakhmeteff Archive, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University.


No additions are expected

Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact rbml@columbia.edu for more information.

Ownership and Custodial History

The Crane Family Papers were the gift of Sylvia E. Crane to the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Columbia University in 2000.


Gift of Sylvia Crane, 2000-2012.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Papers processed Tanya Chebotarev, Katya Shraga, and Adrien Hilton 2000-2015.

Finding aid written Tanya Chebotarev.

Finding aid updated Adrien Hilton 2015.

Additions processed Adrien Hilton 2014-2015.

Revision Description

2015-01-14 xml document instance created by Adrien Hilton

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Crane, Charles Richard, 1858-1939 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical Note

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.