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portant 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 based partly on this principle that it escaped the fate which might have befallen, under later conditions, an unprotected commission business.
The mixture of balance and prudence in his business policy, and of personal flexibility and impersonal stability in his business achievements, was the natural expression of two different aspects of Mark Hanna's disposition. His nature was impulsive, and his impulses frequently had an explosive expression, but at the same time he was cautious and considerate. Although his will was insistent and aggressive, it was not headstrong. He knew what he could and could not do, and he knew when and how long to wait. All the most important actions of his life were the result of unconscious instincts and intentions rather than conscious purposes; but he had no sooner acted in obedience to some deep-rooted personal instinct than his candid intelligence began with coolness and caution to search for the best means of making his will prevail. His will was strong and dominant, largely because it was not calculating; and it was effective, because once having been "set" it could call to its assistance the resources of a well-stored, ingenious and deliberate mind. Mark Hanna's experience came to him as the result for the most part of his instinctive action, but he digested and used it by virtue of a capable and considerate intelligence.
Almost all of Mr. Hanna's close associates testify to this combination of unconscious and deliberate elements in his behavior. Mr. Leonard C. Hanna remarks that while his decisions were often the result of study and reflection, they also came at times from intuition. Mr. Andrew Squire says that he seemed to know by intuition things that other men had to acquire by reading and long experience; but this shrewd witness adds that Mr. Hanna was not ordinarily a man of quick judgment. He usually canvassed a matter thoroughly before reaching a conclusion, and when once the decision was made, he was hard to move. "While Mr. Hanna was quick to reach a conclusion," says Mr. A. C. Saunders, "he was not hasty. He thought things over very carefully. He would give a matter of importance considerable time, and when his mind was made up, go into it with his whole heart. I should say that he was both a bold man and a careful one. He took risks, but he never went beyond his depth, and invariably had his enterprises safely financed before he attempted to carry them out. All of us consulted him on practically all matters, and he knew the business so well that most of his decisions would come quickly. He also consulted his partners and frequently acted on their recommendation. He was usually right, but he could be convinced of his error whenever he was wrong."
Mark Hanna's relation with other men brings out, however, his best qualities in business as in politics. His great success as an organizer was the outcome chiefly of his faculty of getting good work and loyal cooperation out of his associates; and the testimony of Mr. Saunders in the preceding paragraph affords some inkling as to the way in which such results were obtained. He organized everything with which he was concerned, and in organizing he was obliged to delegate responsibility. But his organizations never became mere machines. They were always living things, to which their director imparted his own vitality. He had the faculty of supervising without interfering, and of making his own general responsibility effective without emasculating the specific responsibilities of his subordinates and associates. His success in this respect was not, of course, due to the application of any definite rule, but to the plane of mutual confidence and understanding, on which the relationship was established.
The keystone of his business structure was absolute integrity in the fulfilment of his contracts. Mr. Leonard C. Hanna asserts that from January, 1875, when he entered the firm, until the day of Mark Hanna's death, he never knew the binding quality of any agreement, no matter how disadvantageous, to be questioned. They never considered for a moment the possibility of evading an engagement. "I have sat here," he says, "for thirty years" (his statement was made in 1905), "and during that time I have seen hundreds of thousands of dollars lost by contracts, but never was there a hint that the obligation was not to be fulfilled to the letter. If we agreed to sell pig-iron at a certain price, and an increase in the cost of the raw materials caused us to lose a very large sum of money, the man who bought the iron got it. In 1903 the price of pig-iron fell five