Since the mid-19th century, relations between the United States in the West and Asian countries in the East have been an aggregate of diplomatic miscues and achievements, of trade policy successes and failures, and of cultural chasms and bridges. From the Treaty of Wangxia in 1844 that provided America with trading rights in China on a par with European countries to the contemporary political debates and educational partnerships in nations like Japan, Vietnam, India, and China, the element of understanding and appreciating differences has been paramount.
A singular event in this heritage of almost 150 years in the 1905 mission that sent William Howard Taft on a combination trade and culture junket to Asian countries. Occurring just a few years after U.S. Secretary of State's John Hay's 1899 Open Door Note that sought to keep China open to equitable trade with all countries, the Taft delegation primarily visited China, Japan, and the Philippines to shore up America's interests and to learn more about their emerging partners in the new century.
In Looking East, authors Margo Taft Stever, James Taft Stever, and Hong Shen explore this journey not only by an assiduous use of archives and historical analyses, but especially through the extraordinary images captured by photographer Harry Fowler Woods. Both Taft and Woods are ancestors of two of the authors so there is a particular interest on their part. With scholar Shen, they uncovered these photos and created exhibitions and published the initial Chinese-language edition of this volume by Zhejiang University Press in 2012. In this new, English-language edition, William Howard Taft's 1905 endeavors in Asia are freshly accorded the insight and appreciation they deserve in American diplomatic history.
Margo Taft Stever earned degrees from Harvard University and Sarah Lawrence College. In addition to her historical writing, her published collections of poetry include The Lunatic Ball (2015); The Hudson Line (2012); Frozen Spring (2002); and Reading the Night Sky (1996). Her poems, essays, and reviews have been published in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Salamander, Blackbird, Prairie Schooner, Rattapallax, The Webster Review, New England Review, Minnesota Review, Connecticut Review, Poet Lore, West Branch, Seattle Review, and No More Masks. She is the founder of The Hudson Valley Wristers’ Center and current co-editor of Slapering Hol Press. Stever was a prime mover in the restoration of the historic Philipse Manor Railroad Station for the Center’s home. She is a great-granddaughter of Harry Fowler Woods and Peter R. Taft (half-brother of William Howard Taft) and is a relative of Nicholas Longworth and R. Clough Anderson, who were also travelers on the 1905 mission. Stever oversaw the restoration of the Woods photographs and directed the Harry F. Woods 1905 photography exhibition at the Ohio Historical Society.
James Taft Stever is a great-great grandson of Harry Fowler Woods and a relative of both William Howard Taft and Nicholas Longworth. He holds degrees from Hampshire College and Brown University. Stever first recognized the historical significance of the Woods photographs and co-authored the museum catalog that accompanied the initial public presentation of the restored images in addition to contributing to the text of this book. A former member of the Peace Corps, Stever worked in Kyrgyzstan and currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he owns and operates Generation Farm, an organic vegetable, herb and fruit farm.
Hong Shen is professor of English at Zhejiang University, China. His research is in English literature, Sino-Western cultural relations and exchanges, and missionary studies. He earned his degrees from Peking University, and has been a visiting scholar at University of Oxford, Harvard University, University of Toronto, and University of Birstol. Shen has published thirty-three books and more than one hundred articles, including studies in Mierdun de sadan yu yingguo wenxue chuantong: Miltton’s Stan and the English Literary Tradition (2010); Xihu baixiang: Diversified Images of the West Lake (2010); Tiancheng jiyi: Memories of A Heavenly City with Roy Sewall (2010); and Yishi zai xifang de zhongguoshi: China’s History Found in the West: The China Reports in the Illustrated London News (2014).
Jeffrey Harrison, a great grandson of Harry Fowler Woods, is author of five books of poetry, including The Singing Underneath, chosen in 1987 by James Merrill for the National Poetry Series; Incomplete Knowledge, runner-up for the Poets’ Prize in 2008; and Into Daylight, published in 2014 by Tupelo Press as the winner of the Dorset Prize. A volume of selected poems, The Names of Things (Waywiser Press, 2006) was published in the United Kingdom. A recipient of Guggenheim and NEA Fellowships, he has published poems in The New Republic, The New Yorker, The Nation, the Yale Review, and many other magazines and anthologies. He has taught at a number of colleges and universities, and at Phillips Academy, where he was Writer-in-Residence. He lives in Dover, Massachusetts.
Kevin Grace is the head of the Archives and Rare Books Library at the University of Cincinnati and teaches in the University Honors Program.