網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

any means eager to enter the firm which was to take over his father-in-law's business. Not only was the coal and iron trade an unfamiliar country to him, but he was loath to abandon his petroleum refinery. He believed that large profits were to be made in oil, and as the event proved, he was right. But in addition to reasons connected with the nature of the businesses he abandoned and was asked to undertake, personal issues were involved. His father-in-law had opposed his marriage, and in the beginning had scoffed at his business ability. He would much have preferred to keep his independence and make good without his father-in-law's assistance. Had he not met with a series of reverses, he would in all probability have continued to operate the oil refinery, with the result of profoundly modifying his subsequent business career.

As it was, Mr. Rhodes seems to have offered his son-in-law very considerable inducements to enter the firm of Rhodes & Co. He had come to have much more respect for the young man's business ability, and Mark entered the firm under most advantageous conditions. The refinery, which was rebuilt, and in which Mark's mother had a substantial interest, was sold later in 1867 to his brother, Howard Melville. Mr. Hanna ran the business in partnership with his brother-in-law, Geo. W. Chapin, under the name of Hanna & Chapin. A couple of years later it was sold on advantageous terms to the Standard Oil Company.

How his subsequent business career would have been modified, in case he had become an ally of the Rockefellers, is mere speculation, but it is a kind of speculation too tempting to ignore. A man of Mr. Hanna's energy and business ability could hardly have joined the forces of the Standard Oil Company without becoming conspicuous in its management; and every man prominently identified with that company was induced by the consequent opportunities of money-making and by the nature of the business to leave his native town and go to New York. Mark Hanna might well have done the same, and if so, his subsequent political career would have become impossible. He would have made more money, but he would have broken the local ties which enabled him to develop from a business man into a political leader. The Standard Oil Company proved to be the most generous paymaster in the business history of the United States, if not of the world, but it demanded of its beneficiaries the rupture of local associations and the sacrifice of extraneous ambitions.

All unconsciously Mark Hanna escaped the danger, if danger it was, of becoming too rich, and on April 1, 1867, he made a new start on what proved to be his ultimate business career. At that time he was, according to the statement of his brotherin-law and temporary partner, Mr. Robert R. Rhodes, worth some thousands of dollars less than nothing. He had gained little from the first nine years of his business life except experience. He had ignored the rule laid down by Mr. John D. Rockefeller as constituting the sure road to business success. He had not pinched and saved, and devoted himself exclusively to his work. He was human enough to want a good time while he was young, and he had not scrupled to take it. In the meanwhile he had been seeking business success, as a young man naturally would, by the road of new enterprises, such as the oil refinery and the Lac la Belle. The subsequent history of the oil and the lake shipping industries prove that in making these ventures, his business judgment was sound. But his luck was not as good as his judgment, and his business strategy provided no method of retreat. When his boat and his refinery were consumed by the elements, which they were intended to exploit, he had no reserve capital with which to repair his losses. The Rockefeller rule would have insured him against such a calamity, but fortunately he had saved something better than an insurance fund. He had saved his youth, and he kept his youth with him.

In 1867, however, he was thirty years old. If he was still to be wise according to his years, he no longer had the same excuse for vagrancy. He was happily married. His children were being born. His father-in-law believed in him and had given him an interest in a well-established and prosperous business. He felt the need of making good. For the first time his energies were absorbed by his career. He began to put himself into his work. Notwithstanding the fact that one of his partners was his elder in years and his superior in experience and that the other was the son of the founder of the business, Mark Hanna rapidly became the leading member of the firm. The will to succeed in any enterprise which he undertook and to dominate any group of men with whom he was associated lay deep in his disposition. It now began to receive a persistent and effective expression. During the next twenty-seven years he was more than anything else a man of business. He labored unceasingly and efficiently to build up Rhodes & Co., until under the name of M. A. Hanna & Co. it became a highly individual business organization and one of the two or three largest firms in the coal and iron trade of the Ohio lake district.

CHAPTER VII

BUSINESS LIFE IN CLEVELAND

In Mr. Robert R. Rhodes's statement describing his business relations with Mark Hanna and the latter's business characteristics, Mr. Rhodes has explained in the following words the success of Rhodes & Co.: "Mark Hanna was a shrewd man. Much of the credit for the prosperity of Rhodes & Co. must attach to his individual efforts. But my idea about the success of the firm, aside from Mr. Hanna's personal contribution to it, is that we took over the business at an opportune time. Economic conditions offered us unusual opportunities for growth. We started at the right moment." It is essential, consequently, to an understanding of Mark Hanna's business career that some account be given of the economic conditions and opportunities, which confronted Cleveland business men in the decade or two immediately succeeding the war.

When Dr. Leonard Hanna moved to Cleveland in 1852, it was a small but thriving city, containing a little over 20,000 inhabitants. Its rapid growth had been due to its situation on Lake Erie at the northern terminus of the Ohio Canal. Produce of all kinds, originating not merely in Ohio, but along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, were shipped by river and canal to Cleveland, which became an important distributing and collecting agency for the district reached by the Great Lakes. Agricultural staples were sent to the terminus of the Erie Canal at Buffalo — either for Eastern consumption or for export. The pioneer settlements in the Northwest were supplied with the few necessaries they could afford to purchase, and their products were carried to markets farther east. Its business, consequently, was commercial rather than industrial, and depended for its growth chiefly upon the increasing importance of the Great Lakes in the American system of transportation.

During the fifties the volume of lake commerce increased by leaps and bounds, chiefly because of the rapid settlement of the region in the Northwest tributary to the Great Lakes. The population of Cleveland more than doubled during the decade, and its industry and commerce not only throve, but became much more diversified. Nevertheless, even in 1860 its population was less than one-fourth that of Cincinnati, and the conditions which account for its present place in the national commercial system were barely beginning to be conspicuous. The great trade routes still lay along the navigable rivers like the Ohio and Mississippi, and the combination of lake and railroad transportation, which was to constitute the backbone of American domestic commerce, had not yet been formed.

The Civil War accelerated the predestined change in commercial routes. Navigation of the Mississippi, except for military purposes, suddenly ceased. The bond between the South and the agricultural states of the Middle and Northwest was cut. The tide of commerce began running east and west. The railroads and the Lakes took the place of the rivers and the canals. Chicago as the distributing and collecting centre for the rapidly growing states tributary to the head waters of the Mississippi and Missouri leaped into its position as the leading commercial and industrial city of its own region. Its enormous increase in population and business was due chiefly to the benefit which it obtained from the agricultural development of the West and the Northwest — a benefit dependent more upon its railroad connections than its situation on Lake Michigan, but partly on both.

Cleveland had little to gain, except indirectly, from the increase in the grain trade and the new course it was taking; and it had less to gain than had Chicago from the growing importance of railroad transportation. Its peculiar place in American domestic commerce depended upon its central and convenient location on the Lakes. It needed the railroads chiefly as supplementary to water routes. Its great opportunity came when the industrial expansion of the Middle West created a demand for crude manufacturing materials, adapted to transportation in bulk. Its merchants assembled the basic materials necessary to the industrial life of the Middle West. They brought coal from the mines in Ohio and western Pennsylvania, and sold it in the different markets on or near the Lakes. They

« 上一頁繼續 »