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ficulty after another, and in the end they were forced to submit to the will of the obstinate Mr. Rhodes.
In December, 1866, their first child was born and was named Daniel Rhodes Hanna, after the dominant father-in-law. A few months later Mark Hanna was seized with an acute attack of typhoid fever — the malady which was subsequently to cause his death. He was desperately sick, but being young and strong, he pulled through. While he was still struggling against the depressing after effects of his illness, he met with business reverses. Robert Hanna and Co. had built a new boat, the Lac la Belle, which is said to have been the best vessel on the Lakes. It appears that Mark Hanna had an individual interest in her as well as his share of the firm's interest. After only a short period of service she collided with another boat in the Detroit River, and went to the bottom — a total loss.
Nor was this all. Soon after his marriage Mark Hanna had started a petroleum refinery. It was a new industry. The buildings were small and the business uncertain. Insurance companies looked askance at the risk. According to his daughter's account Daniel Rhodes was violently opposed to his sonin-law's enterprise, not merely because he did not like the precariousness of the venture, but because he wanted Mark Hanna to join him in the coal and iron business. Every time he heard the fire bells he would say: "There ! I suppose Mark's damned oil refinery is burning down." His constant repetition of this remark finally became a family joke. But one day it did burn down, and at that time Mark Hanna, while he was up and about after his attack of typhoid, was still far from well. He did not get home until two o'clock in the morning. When he came in, he said: "Well, I have got to the bottom. The boat is sunk, the refinery is burnt and worse still, my health is gone. If I were well, I would not be discouraged. As it is, I don't know what will become of us." Early the next morning Daniel Rhodes turned up at the house on Prospect Street, walked in and greeted the happy pair with the admonition: "Now, I guess you two young fools will be good and come home." They meekly acquiesced, and that very day they returned to the Rhodes house on Franklin Avenue. The father-in-law stood by, while they packed up, and consoled the young man with the
reiterated remark, "Your money is all gone, Mark, and I am damned glad of it." For the moment there was no fight left in Mark. It was arranged that Mr. and Mrs. Rhodes were to go abroad, Mr. and Mrs. Hanna were to keep house in Franklin Avenue, and at the same time make a home for Mrs. Hanna's brother, Robert R. Rhodes.
The new domestic arrangement involved also a new start in business for Mark Hanna. Daniel Rhodes wanted to retire. The old firm of Rhodes, Card & Co. was dissolved. Jonathan F. Card withdrew as well as Daniel Rhodes, and a wholly new firm, to be called Rhodes & Co., was to take their place. The members of this firm were George H. Warmington, M. A. Hanna and Robert R. Rhodes, the brother of Mrs. Hanna. Rhodes & Co. started business in April, 1867, and so began Mark Hanna's connection with the coal and iron industry, which was to last throughout his life.
The organization of the copartnership of Rhodes & Co. involved the withdrawal of Mark Hanna from the firm of Robert Hanna & Co., but it is improbable that Mark had many regrets on that score. The Hanna firm had been strengthened after the war by the accession of Howard Melville, Mark's brother; and apparently the younger men did not get on very well with their uncle. He is described as a large, heavy man with good business judgment, and an excellent salesman, but lacking in energy and enterprise. After his marriage Mark had begun to take business in earnest. He wanted to expand their trade rapidly, introduce a more vigorous campaign for the sale of stock, and improve their methods and machinery all along the line. His plans were continually being thwarted by his uncle, who, as the elder man, was naturally conservative. There were many disagreements. The partnership would probably not in any event have endured very long, and if Mark Hanna had continued to be a grocer, he would either have controlled the business or started a competitive firm. As it was, he withdrew at the time of the formation of Rhodes & Co., and later in the same year the business was wound up and the stock sold to a competitor.
Although Mark Hanna probably felt little reluctance in terminating his partnership with his uncle, he had not been by 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.