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happened to overflow into banking. It is true that his energy was inexhaustible, and that he started a bank and made it a success with an apparent ease that almost makes the job seem to be a diversion. But he had none the less a motive in starting the bank,+ a motive which was not merely the instinctive expression of superabundant business energy. He wanted to help a friend — to found a business in which that friend would find a regular and a remunerative position. Among Mark Hanna's papers was discovered the following note scrawled on a letter-heading of the Union National Bank, dated June 9, 1884 — the day on which the bank started to do business. The scrawl is itself undated, but must have been written some time in the nineties.
“Mark I —
“In cleaning out my desk to-day I discovered this sheet and send (it to) you as a souvenir of past events. On the 9th of June, 1884, the struggle commenced.
- For What? To work as few men have ever worked and to accomplish what no other man in Cleveland could have accomplished in the time and
To supply a soft snap for an intriguing conspiring Yankee (codfish bred) who has yet to add his first account (save his own paltry one) to the business of the bank. The rewards of merit in this world are past finding, Mark, let's hope for better in the next |
In the early eighties Mr. Hanna not only published a newspaper and started a bank, but he bought a theatre; and he came to buy it in a very characteristic way. He was walking along Euclid Avenue one day with some friends on his way to the Union Club for lunch, when one of his companions remarked that the Opera House was at that very moment being put up for sale by the sheriff. This theatre, which was at the time the largest and handsomest in Cleveland, had been built by Mr. John Ellsler, who was a citizen of Cleveland and an actor as well as a manager. The enterprise had failed, because the theatre was rather more expensive than the city of Cleveland was capable of supporting, and Mr. Ellsler was being sold up. Mr. Hanna and his friends strolled into the building in order to watch the proceedings. The bidding was under way. Somebody had made an offer of $40,000 for the property, and Mr. Hanna to his own surprise and that of his friends raised the bid a few hundred dollars. He was still more surprised, when a minute later he found himself the owner of the theatre. According to his account he did not have the remotest idea, when he entered the building, of buying the property. The first manager placed in charge of the theatre was his cousin, L. G. Hanna, a son of Benjamin Hanna. For some time it continued to be unprofitable. Its owner did not always approve of the policy of his manager. One evening Mr. and Mrs. Hanna were driving by the building and saw a roughlooking crowd gathered about the entrance. Thinking the building was on fire, Mr. Hanna left his wife at the Union Club, hastened to the theatre and entered the box always reserved for himself. He found the theatre crowded and a wrestling match under way. The first round had just ended, and Mr. L. G. Hanna was on the stage, announcing that inasmuch as the performance was so successful, it would be repeated on the following week. But Mark Hanna did not like it. He had bought a theatre, not an arena. One account states that the irate owner stood up in his box and declared that no such performance would be repeated in the Opera House, but this version is denied by Mr. L. G. Hanna, who states that Mr. Hanna merely went behind the scenes and asked him to omit wrestling matches in the future from the list of attractions. Augustus F. Hartz, who succeeded Mr. L. G. Hanna as lessee, had already been the manager of one theatre in Cleveland, but it burned, and he returned to his earlier occupation of prestidigitator. While he was performing in Cincinnati he received a telegram from Mr. Hanna asking him to keep an appointment in Cleveland the next day. Fifteen minutes after their meeting the lease was signed. Mark Hanna did business without unnecessary delays. Under the new management the theatre became more successful; and Mr. Hartz continued to be its lessee from that time until Mr. Hanna's death — a period of twenty years. Mr. Hartz states that Mr. Hanna knew all about the theatre, every part of it, and was perfectly competent to have managed it himself. He was frequently consulted about the bookings, and his judgment was rarely at fault. He had a high standard as to the character of the entertainments presented, and wanted his theatre to be known as in every respect first class. There was reserved for his use a box which he usually occupied some time during the week. Mr. Hartz states that his taste in plays and players was good. He insisted that the Opera House should be well and thriftily managed, but he was kind and considerate to his tenant. At the end of more than one theatrical season Mr. Hartz went to him and owned up that he could not pay the whole rent. “All right,” Mr. Hanna would say, “I can wait.” “But,” he would ask, “have you paid every one else?” As long as he knew that he was being dealt with candidly, he was willing to help and to wait; but he always insisted upon the prompt settlement of every other obligation. In the long run the theatre proved to be a good investment, paying him a return of $8000 on his investment of $40,000. Yet when he bought the theatre he obviously had not done so merely as an investment. He preferred to keep his money in his business, and he almost never bought real estate except for his own use. Once the theatre was his, he was too good a man of business not to want to make it pay, but the impulse which prompted his successful bid did not flow merely from a quick apprehension of the cheapness of the property. It seems to have been an instinctive by-product of a lively interest in the drama and in theatrical performers. Plays and particularly players, always exercised a strong fascination upon him. He liked their animation, their gayety, their good-fellowship, and the heightening of personality which the practice of their profession bestows upon them. Throughout the whole of his life Mr. Hanna was intensely and inveterately social. His favorite recreation consisted in companionship with other people; and even during his years of closest business preoccupation he rarely sat down to table without a certain number of guests. On Sundays and holidays he liked to have the house full. Moreover, he wanted to entertain, not merely his friends and business associates, but (as his mother did before him) prominent and interesting people who visited Cleveland; and among the visitors to Cleveland, who were necessarily prominent and usually interesting, were, of course, the constant stream of performers at the local theatres. Mr. Hanna used to entertain many of them at his house, and in this way he became more or less intimately acquainted with most of the leading American actors of his own day.
Among the actors whom he knew more or less intimately were Edwin Booth, Lawrence Barrett, John McCullough, Henry Irving, W. J. Florence, John T. Raymond, W. H. Crane and Joseph Jefferson. He met many of them at his own theatre. When he did not know them, he would go to their dressing-room to be introduced, and then take them to his home as his guests. Some of them he helped. His most intimate friend among the players was Lawrence Barrett, with whom he corresponded, and whose letters to Mr. Hanna are almost affectionate. The business man had helped the actor with a loan of $10,000 at a time when their acquaintance was still comparatively slight, and thereafter their association ripened into a warm friendship. Mr. Hanna became Mr. Barrett's business adviser and helped him both to make and keep money. Mr. Hartz states that the latter's first engagement at the Opera House promised to be a dreary failure. On Monday night the house was empty. So for Tuesday night Mr. Hanna bought all the seats in the theatre except the gallery, and distributed them among the “best” people in Cleveland. It cost him $1400, but thereafter (according to Mr. Hartz) Barrett's reputation was established in Cleveland and to a smaller extent in neighboring cities.
Mr. Hanna's excursion into the ownership of a theatre was, consequently, the result of human rather than business motives. He did not do it to make money, although once involved he managed to make the investment profitable. But his theatre brought him into closer touch with a group of people whom he found interesting and diverting, and who must have added a grateful alteration to the somewhat monotonous social life of a Middle Western city.
Mark Hanna's other and final miscellaneous business interest was a street railway company. His connection therewith began, when in 1875, after the death of his father-in-law, Mr. Daniel P. Rhodes, he took the latter's place as director of the Rocky River Railroad. This little steam road ran for five or six miles from the city westward to a point on the Lake, which was a favorite place of recreation for the young people of Cleveland. Its equipment consisted of three locomotives and twelve cars; and it successfully lost during the winter all the money it made during the summer. Its right of way was sold finally to the Nickel Plate Railroad; and as a local transit agency it was in a sense succeeded by the West SideStreet Railway Company. Thatcompany had been incorporated in January, 1863, for the purpose of supplying the citizens of the West Side with a horse-car service, and in it Mr. Daniel P. Rhodes was largely interested. At his death this interest was inherited by his daughter and his sons. Its initial capital stock of $50,000 had increased by 1879 to only $80,000, which indicates that during these sixteen years its growth had not been rapid. Mrs. Hanna's interest in the road after her father's death consisted of five hundred shares. In 1879 Mark Hanna was elected a director, having qualified by the purchase of one hundred shares.
Three years later, in 1882, he purchased five hundred more shares, and in this way he and the heirs of Mr. Rhodes obtained control of the property. Up to that time Elias Sims had been president of the corporation. The management had been anything but enterprising or efficient. Its service was cheap and poor. Its passengers had the pleasure of riding in old cars which were no longer good enough to be used in New York, and these cars were drawn by horses which had been discarded as useless for any but a semi-public service. Mark Hanna did not like such management. He named a price at which he would sell his own interest or purchase the interest of Mr. Sims. That the price was liberal is indicated by the fact that in twenty-four hours Mr. Hanna had entered into control.
The West Side Street Railway Company owned about fifteen miles of track, almost all of it on the west side of the Cuyahoga River. It ran cars on Detroit, Pearl, Lorain and Bridge streets, and thence over the new viaduct to the Public