Round-the-World Flights

J. Willis Sayre Breaks the Record as the Fastest Person to Travel Round-The-World

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	J. Willis Sayre was born on December 31, 1877 in Washington DC. He was a longtime 
resident of Seattle, WA - a journalist, arts promoter, and local historian whose work 
spanned more than five decades during the city's most explosive period of growth and 
development. Primarily known as a dramatic critic for the Daily Times and the Seattle 
Post-Intelligencer, he was also heavily involved in the activities of the Seattle Symphony, 
and he organized promotional efforts for a number of Seattle's early motion picture houses.

	At the turn of the century, he left Seattle for the Philippines to fight with the 
First Washington Volunteers, battling the insurrectionist movement. He rose to the rank of 
Sergeant. Prior to his departure, he had been employed as a theater manager and upon his 
return, he began a career as a dramatic critic.

	The most notable accomplishment of his journalistic career was not in reviewing 
stage plays, but in the field of travel. Emulating Jules Verne's Phileas Fogg, in 1903 he 
took advantage of the recent opening of the Trans-Siberian Railway to circle the globe in 
54 days, 9 hours and 42 minutes. This was a record-breaking journey that was completed 
without the benefit of special travel arrangements using only public transportation.  He 
traveled as any other citizen would, at the mercy of standard boat and train schedules. In 
Manchuria, the train had to make an unexpected stop while a herd of camels was chased off 
the tracks. In Germany, he was thrown off a train for not having obtained the correct 
paperwork in Poland, and had to double back to get the necessary information. He completed 
his journey with neither illness nor accident. 
	It is interesting to note that on July 4, 1903 President Roosevelt, on the 
completion of the Commercial Pacific Cable, flashed a message around-the-earth in twelve 
minutes, while a second message sent by Clarence H. Mackay, President of the Pacific Cable 
Company, made the circuit of the earth in nine minutes.

	Upon Sayre's return to Seattle, he was given a hero's welcome, and his round-the-world 
exploits story was recounted in The Saturday Evening Post. In 1907 he was the theatrical 
critic for The Argus and then in 1909 with the Seattle Star. Eventually he returned to his 
former employer, the Seattle Daily Times, where he edited the paper's theatrical department 
while serving as manager of the Seattle Symphony from 1908 to 1924. His career was always a 
combination of publicity and reporting as he was often both a promoter and newspaperman.
	In 1933, when local papers were celebrating the 30th anniversary of his 
round-the-world accomplishment, he was openly critical of those who had topped his 
achievement by utilizing special travel arrangements (including chartered aircraft) to 
better the record. "It seemed obvious to me," he wrote in the Post-Intelligencer, 
"that ... a trip round-the-world became merely a question of who had the most money to 
spend on it." 

	Retiring as the then dean of all American dramatic reviewers in 1954 after suffering 
a stroke, he continued to live in Seattle until 1959 when continuing health problems 
prompted his move to Santa Cruz, CA. In January 14, 1963 he passed away at 87.

Itinerary Round-the-World by rail and steamer:

Departed Seattle, WA        by steamer                  06/26/03 
    Yokohama, Japan         by rail                     07/15/03
    Kobe, Japan             by rail 
    Nagasaki, Japan         by ocean liner "Mongolia" 
    Dalny                   by rail "Chinese Eastern Railway"  
    Harbin                  by rail "Trans Siberian Railroad" 
    Smyssovaia, Russia
    Irkoutsk, Russia        by ship "Queen Wilhelmina"  07/27/03
    Moscow, Russia
    Warsaw, Poland          by rail				
    Berlin, Germany         by rail                     08/07/03
    London, England         by rail
    Liverpool               by ocean liner "Campania"
    Queenstown, Ireland
    New York, NY            by rail
    St Paul, MN
Arrived Seattle, WA                                     08/20/03

	J. Willis Sayre memorabilia is housed at the University of Washington's Drama 
Department library and Seattle Public Library.  The Seattle Public Library, Fine and 
Performing Arts Department and the University of Washington's Drama Department are both 
primary resource collections for theater history materials.

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