Ambassador Charles R. Crane (1858-1939)
Charles Richard Crane was born in Chicago on August 7, 1858, and was the eldest child of Richard Teller Crane. Crane worked at the family's successful firm, R. T. Crane Brass and Bell Foundry, as the company's vice-president from 1894 until 1912, and upon his father's death, as president until his resignation in July 1914. His leave from the family's business allowed Crane to focus on his personal interests in the fields of politics, international diplomacy, and philanthropy. Over the course of his life, he invested his money on political campaigns, endowing schools, colleges and research institutions, establishing scholarships, organizing and funding relief efforts and supporting artists, writers, journalists and intellectuals.
His wide and far-reaching travels around the world began ironically as a result of the malaria Crane contracted in 1877; his doctor prescribed him rest and travel to England, which then led to Egypt, Syria, and Turkey. Crane's illness subsided as he traveled to more distant and exotic places, and his poor health became an early excuse for further travels with his strictly business-minded father. By his death in 1939, Crane had traveled at length to and was familiar with Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Albania, China, Greece, Russia, Uzbekistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Basra and many others, and had developed strong connections and friendships in these regions.
It was Crane's wide knowledge of and associations in these lands that made him a candidate for a variety of diplomatic positions. In 1909, President William Howard Taft appointed Crane as the Unites States Minister to China, although the post did not materialize. In 1913 and 1914, President Woodrow Wilson offered Crane the Ambassadorship to Russia, which he declined for personal reasons; and, in 1915, he was appointed by the President as the only American delegate to a five-member commission under the Advancement of Peace Treaty between Russia and America. Two years later, after the Russian Revolution in February, Crane agreed to act as an envoy to Russia on a mission headed by Elihu Root. The mission was intended to foster co-operation between American and the Revolutionary government in Russia.
In 1919 President Wilson further appointed Crane as a commissioner to gather information from and about the dissolving Ottoman Empire - a mission which would later be known as the King-Crane Commission. It included visits to Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, and Anatolia (mainly what is present day Turkey). One year later, in 1920, Crane was named again United States Minister to China, and successfully served a year as Ambassador in Peking.
Throughout his travels and diplomatic trips, Crane met and befriended many prominent figures such as Thomas Masaryk, who would become the first president of Czechoslovakia with the help of Crane, and artists such as Alphonse Mucha, Nicholas Konstantinovich Roerich, Georgii Ivanovich Gabashvili, Vasilii Vasilievich Vereshchagin, and others. Over the years, Crane acquired and commissioned works from these and many other artists and built an extensive private art collection that not only reflected his personal aesthetic tastes but also represented his fascination and appreciation of foreign lands about which he so eagerly learned.
Property from the Collection of Ambassador Charles R. Crane
Courtyard of the Al-Azhar Mosque and University Complex, Cairo