India House Foundation

 

One Hanover Square, built c 1850, was the New York Cotton Exchange from 1871 to 1885 and became headquarters for the Asiatic Institute and India House in 1914.

 

 Theodore Roosevelt, China, and the Ships at India House

Although India House, a club with a Maritime and Asian Art collection in New York City, opened one hundred years ago, the reason for its founding in 1914 remains little known. Recent research reveals that India House was part of a larger enterprise, the Asiatic Institute, which was an outgrowth of the foreign policy of President Theodore Roosevelt.  The mission of the Asiatic Institute was to "make possible in Eastern Asia a knowledge of Western civilization and…bring about an intelligent exchange of Eastern and Western thought.”
 At India House, American business leaders met government decision makers to lobby for the expansion of trade in ‘The Indies.’  This was an extension of the ‘Open Door to China’ policy of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and his successor William Howard Taft.  When Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party failed to return him to the White House, Woodrow Wilson became President in 1913.  Wilson closed the ‘Open Door to China.’  In response Taft became President of the Asiatic Institute. Willard D. Straight, one of Roosevelt’s young ‘China Hands’, became J. P. Morgan’s agent in an international consortium of banks to finance the survival of the Republic of China.  Straight and his Standard Oil heiress and social activist wife, Dorothy Payne Whitney, founded the Asiatic Institute and ASIA, a monthly magazine, and purchased and renovated India House with a collection of over 1000 ship portraits and models of American merchant sailing ships.
The Asiatic Institute utilized art to promote trade to maintain world peace.  Between 1914 and 1918 it funded public exhibitions of Ancient Asian Art and ‘Contemporary’ Maritime Art in New York City and donated funds to President Yuan Shikai to create a national museum to save the art in Peking’s Forbidden City.  This was the work of an heiress and a diplomat with the guidance of Roosevelt, who the 13th Dalai Lama called the ‘American Emperor.’
Margaret Stocker, India House Foundation, May 2014
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