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cution demanded business qualities, unusual in their variety, in their intensity and in the individuality of their combination. “He was choke-full of energy,” says Mr. Robert R. Rhodes, his brother-in-law and early partner, “aggressive and progressive.” “His very first desire was to be the head and front of every enterprise in which he was engaged,” says Mr. Andrew Squire, his attorney for twenty years, “to be the leader in his own business and his own affairs.” “He was always leading,” says Mr. A. C. Saunders, another early associate, “and was quick to drop one thing and take up another. It is a great thing for a man to know when to let go. Mr. Hanna knew when to quit — that was one of the secrets of his apparent good fortune. He was tremendously interested in anything new. If his judgment approved of it, he was enthusiastic in pushing it and testing its value. But he quickly sensed a failure and turned to something else with equal energy and courage.” This passion for leadership and this insistent but alert initiative kept pushing him forward and made him eager to seize opportunities, to stamp his own will on events, and exert effective influence and power. He was never afraid to go ahead and to take the risks and the responsibilities incidental to leadership. Under the economic conditions of his own day and region, his aggressive and dominating will resulted inevitably in a highly enterprising business policy, which he was able successfully to carry out because his initiative was sustained by an equally emphatic executive ability. When he had anything to do, he did not spare himself in the doing of it. “He was a hard worker,” says Mr. Rhodes, “and a man who applied himself very closely to his business. In industry he was unsurpassed.” Another early partner adds testimony to the same effect. According to Mr. A. C. Saunders, his industry was extraordinary. “He was an inveterate worker. When I first went into his office he had to travel a good deal. He would return, write his letters and be off again. Few people realized how hard he worked. Often he used to stay until late at night, and I as his secretary stayed with him. He would tire me out.” But while he worked hard he also worked well; and he could quickly change from work to play. During the years of his closest application to business he entertained freely, and kept very much alive his other great interest — which was a love of companionship. His unusual industry was directed by a mind which had mastered every detail of his business. For one thing he was during his early years an extremely successful salesman. He had the gift of persuading other people to do what he wanted them to do. Mr. Lucius F. Mellen, an early competitor, states that “Mark could beat us all in a trade and in getting customers.” Mr. E. H. Bourne, who succeeded Mr. Hanna as president of the Union National Bank, but who was at one time his competitor in the coal business, tells of an occasion on which the city of Chicago was asking for bids on a large quantity of coal. Coal dealers from Pennsylvania and Ohio flocked to Chicago to try for the business, among them Mr. Hanna. Many of the salesmen stopped at the same hotel, and they were smilingly informed by Mr. Hanna one morning that the contract had been awarded to him. He beat the field, because, according to Mr. Bourne, he was remarkable in obtaining the information he needed and then in taking such action as was best adapted to get the business. Another of his gifts which was of peculiar value to his business was an aptitude for mechanics. An understanding of machinery was natural to him, so that he was thoroughly and intelligently familiar with the mechanical details of a business, whose prosperity became in the course of years more and more a matter of the efficient use of machinery. Mr. A. B. Hough, who took many trips with him on the iron ore vessels up the Lakes, testifies to his exact knowledge, not only of the mechanism of the boats, but of every detail of its operation, including the capabilities of its officers, the details of its expense account and the like. “He used to surprise me,” says Mr. Squire, “with his knowledge of the principles of mechanics. He and Mr. J. F. Pankhurst worked out a plan, by which a dynamo was directly connected to one of the engines of a power plant in which they were interested; and I think I am right in saying that this had never been done before.” Partly as a result of Mr. Hanna's aptitude for mechanics, his firm was closely associated with the development of the machinery necessary for the more economical conduct of their business. We have already seen how important was the part which H. M. Hanna and his brother played in the improvement of lake shipping. The contribution made by the firm to the development of mining and coal and iron handling machinery is said to have been equally substantial.
A business which was constantly expanding, and which required the exercise of so many aptitudes on the part of its director could never become a matter of routine. Like the sea of economic conditions by which it was surrounded, it was always in a condition of unstable equilibrium. New adjustments were continually being required, and the making of these adjustments demanded the constant attention of a steady, alert, allround man, – a man who could do many things and all of them sufficiently well. Specialism on the one hand or mere conservatism on the other would either have wrecked the business or entirely changed its character. Its director was much in the same situation as an aviator, who must sit with his hand on the lever ready for any shifting of the currents of air, and who knows that the equilibrium of his machine depends upon his ability to keep it going.
Mark Hanna in a sense made such a situation for himself. Or rather such a situation was the inevitable result of his aggressive, enterprising, dominating personality. He was always on campaign — always planning the movement of his forces so as to obtain surer and completer control of the firm's existing territory or, wherever possible, to occupy new and important strategic points. Such campaigns involve, of course, the taking of chances; but only one of his partners complains that he took dangerous and unwise chances. Mr. Rhodes states that Mr. Hanna sought to enlarge the firm's business in ways his partners did not always consider prudent. They tried to hold him down — not always with success, because he would sometimes go ahead without even consulting them. If there is any truth in this criticism, it applies to his early rather than to his later career. In the beginning he may have taken some long chances in order to accelerate the progress of the firm, but later his boldness was tempered with caution. Such is the unanimous testimony of his other partners. A man of his disposition necessarily took chances; but if he took chances, he knew how to carry them off.
Only once in his business career does he seem to have been involved in a precarious position. The Globe Ship-building Company, of which H. M. Hanna was president, and in which Mark Hanna was heavily interested, had built five ore-carrying vessels for Ferdinand Schlesinger of Milwaukee. Mr. Schlesinger was a business ally of Mr. Hanna's, in whom the latter had great personal confidence. He was the owner of some valuable iron mines in the Menominee range, including the very exceptional Chapin mine, whose product was sold through M. A. Hanna & Co. Mr. Schlesinger gave them an advantageous contract for carrying the ore in return for the vessels — thus practically pledging the mines for the payment of the boats. The brothers figured that at the end of six years the contract for transporting the ore would reimburse the company for the cost of the ships.
The arrangement looked good, because by means of the combination each of the parties to the contract was able to transact a substantially larger amount of business. Unfortunately, however, Mr. Schlesinger overreached himself and failed. He had built a railroad in order to haul his ore to the Lakes, and he had strained his resources in so doing. He was involved to the extent of several million dollars, and the brothers found their heavy investment on the strength of the contract compromised. They had what Mr. H. M. Hanna describes as a lively winter. They had to spend a large part of it in New York working out a settlement which would enable them to get back their security. Finally they succeeded. A purchaser was found for the railroad in the Northwestern Railroad Company. H. M. Hanna took back the boats, and M. A. Hanna & Co. emerged with the Chapin mine. The experience was an unpleasant one for men who, in their own business, never ventured beyond their depth; but it proved to be very profitable in its ultimate results. In 1899 the Chapin mine was sold to the National Steel Company at a large advance over its cost.
This dangerous complication was due chiefly to Mark Hanna's personal confidence in Ferdinand Schlesinger; and it should be added that his confidence was not misplaced. Partly owing to Mr. Hanna's assistance, Mr. Schlesinger later made another start, obtained possession of some iron mines of apparently doubtful value, and was justified in his judgment by their development into extremely valuable properties. Thus he completely recovered himself, and the alliance between Mr. Schlesinger and his sons and M. A. Hanna & Co. has continued until the present day. Mark Hanna, for all his aggressive initiative, was not a man to skate on thin ice. He took certain necessary risks, but he was never a speculator in the sense of a man who merely gambled on his business judgment. He was an organizer and a manager as well as an initiator of enterprises. The different aspects of his business policy hung together, and aimed eventually at giving security as well as volume to the business of the firm. It has remained what he made it – viz. a business depending on personal direction and in some measure on personal relations; but it was none the less a carefully and intelligently wrought structure, whose stability was founded on sound economic ideas. “In my thirty years of business experience,” says Mr. Leonard C. Hanna, “I have never known a mind which had such a firm grasp on the essentials of a business proposition”; and this ability to fasten on essentials seems to have been due not merely to his knowledge of the conditions affecting any particular business affair, but to thoroughly sound general ideas and methods. He had the faculty of “getting in right” instead of wrong. The accuracy and the force of his judgment on specific business questions was assisted by a correct general estimate of the dominant values in his own business world. H. M. Hanna testifies that his brother had a definite and comprehensive conception of the channels, through which the great American domestic commerce was bound to flow and of the opportunities, which were offered to Cleveland business men of assembling the raw materials necessary to the steel and iron industries and of furnishing the means of transportation. His other brother, Mr. Leonard Hanna, states that he early acquired an equally definite idea of the dominant principle underlying the characteristic American industrial organization — the principle of keeping control of the several processes by means of which raw materials are worked up for use, and of deriving some profit from all of them. It was because the business of M. A. Hanna & Co. was