Hanna, Mark (1837-1904)

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Mark Hanna (1837-1904)

Republican political leader


Changing the G.O.P. Mark Hanna, an Ohio industrialist turned politician, modernized the Republican Party and helped to win the presidency for fellow Ohioan William McKinley in 1896.

Background. Marcus Alonzo Hanna was born on 24 September 1837 in New Lisbon (later Lisbon), Ohio. When he was fifteen Hanna and his family moved to Cleveland, where Hanna entered Western Reserve College in 1857. In spring 1858 he dropped out of school to work in the familys wholesale-grocery business. During the Civil War Hanna served a few months of 1864 as a lieutenant in an Ohio militia company. In September 1864 a few weeks after he returned to Cleveland, he married C. Augusta Rhodes, daughter of a successful coal and iron merchant and became a partner in the Rhodes family business, Rhodes & Co., which diversified into shipbuilding and became M. A. Hanna & Co. in 1885. Hanna became a wealthy man with civic and commercial interests that included the ownership of streetcar franchises, the Cleveland Opera House, and the Cleveland Herald, directorships of two railroads, and the presidency of the Union National Bank.

Career in Politics. Hanna became involved in local Republican politics in the early 1870s. A fierce supporter of Republican causes such as protective tariffs and the gold standard, he used the Cleveland Herald, which he bought in May 1880, to further the successful campaign of Republican presidential nominee James A. Garfield. In 1884 Hanna was a delegate to the Republican National Convention. He supported Ohio favorite son Sen. John Sherman, who garnered only minimal support at a convention dominated by forces loyal to James G. Blaine, who won the nomination. Though his candidate was unsuccessful, Hanna formed important political associations with fellow Ohio delegates Congressman William McKinley and Joseph B. Foraker, who was elected governor of Ohio in 1885 with Hanna serving on his executive election committee. Although initially closer to Foraker, who supported Sherman, than to McKinley, who supported Blaine, Hanna had a disagreement about political patronage with Foraker in 1887 and eventually drew closer to McKinley. After supporting Shermans strong but ultimately unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1888, Hanna turned to McKinley, who, like Hanna, supported a high tariff and had a friendly view of labor. Hannas ability to raise campaign money contributed greatly to McKinleys election as governor of Ohio in 1891. Hanna and McKinley planned to bring McKinley forward as a presidential candidate if President Benjamin Harrison failed in his bid to run for a second term at the Republican National Convention of 1892, and right after the convention McKinley and Hanna began to set their sights on the White House for 1896. In 1895 Hanna withdrew from active involvement in business to devote himself to politics full time.

The Election of 1896. After demonstrating his ability to attract delegates nationwide to win the presidential nomination for McKinley at the Republican National Convention of 1896, Hanna became chairman of the Republican National Committee, managing fund-raising and propaganda with particular zeal. Under Hannas leadership the campaign broke new ground and established a model followed in later presidential bids. He flooded newspapers and journals all over the country with stories about McKinleys virtues and his heroism in the Civil War, creating an image of McKinley as a solid middle-class man of the people. While McKinleys oppo-nent, William Jennings Bryan, traveled an unprecedented number of miles to take his message to voters, Hanna arranged for McKinley to conduct his campaign from the front porch of his house in Canton, Ohio; on 18 September alone McKinley received as many as eighty thousand people. Hanna recruited fourteen hundred speakers to extol McKinleys virtues nationwide, and he was one of the earliest political operatives to use opinion polls to pin-point campaign weak spots. The national campaign committee reported spending about $4 million on McKinleys campaign, but far more money was actually spent to take the candidates message to the voters. Thanks in large part to Hannas meticulous campaign organization, McKinley won the election.

The Spanish-American War. Following the election and the appointment of Sen. John Sherman as secretary of state, Hanna was appointed to complete Shermans term in the Senate, where he continued to serve until his death in 1904, despite charges that he tried to buy the vote of an Ohio legislator in 1898. When the rebellion in Cuba reached a crisis point in 1898, Hanna, like McKinley and other Republicans, was reluctant to involve the United States in Cuban affairs, fearing that hostilities would disrupt business. Nonetheless, they backed war in April 1898. Like most conflicts, the Spanish-American War (1898) initiated an upsurge of popular support for the president, and, in fact, it proved to be good for business, contributing to the sense that Republicans were indeed the party of prosperity.

The Election of 1900. The good times that followed the war made Republicans confident that the election of 1900 was theirs. Touting Republican Prosperity and reusing the theme of the full dinner pail, Hanna again ran a massive campaign for McKinley. Hanna would have preferred a more predictable vice-presidential candidate than war hero Theodore Roosevelt, but Roosevelts military record and his successful campaign for the New York governorship made him an important asset. McKinley beat Bryan by a wider margin than he had in 1896. The Republicans also strengthened their control over both houses of Congress. Again Hanna had proved himself a master political campaigner.

Later Years. After McKinleys assassination in September 1901, Hanna maintained close connections to President Roosevelt. To conservative Republicans who viewed Roosevelt as a radical, Hanna seemed a logical choice for president. In the midst of speculation about whether he was considering a bid for the Republican presidential nomination; Hanna became ill and died on 15 February 1904 without making his intentions public.


Herbert Croly, Marcus Alonzo Hanna: His Life and Work (New York: Macmillan, 1912);

Clarence Ames Stern, Resurgent Republicanism: The Handiwork of Hanna (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1963).

Hanna, Marcus Alonzo

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Marcus Alonzo Hanna (18371904), was a wealthy businessman from Ohio and a leading spokesman for enlightened capitalism (the cooperation of business, labor, and government to help improve economic and social conditions.) He appreciated the importance of the relationship between business and politics and lent his organizational skills to the campaigns of Ohio Republicans. He is best known for managing successfully the presidential campaign of William McKinley (18971901), and later serving as United States Senator.

Marcus Hanna was born in New Lisbon (now Lisbon), Ohio in 1837. He moved with his family to Cleveland, where his father ran a wholesale grocery business. Hanna became a partner in this business after his father's death in 1862. In 1864 he married the daughter of Daniel P. Rhodes, a coal and iron magnate. Hanna joined his father-in-law's company and had such success in business dealings that the company reorganized as M. A. Hanna and Company in 1885. He also supported other business interests in Cleveland, such as a bank, a newspaper, the Opera House, lake transportation, oil refining, and the street railway system.

Hanna's ideal of capitalism included the support of large-scale production, tariff protection, and the gold standard. He was an unusual capitalist in that he did not oppose labor organizations. He saw it as a necessary means to settle industrial disputes in a quick and efficient manner. More importantly, Hanna appreciated the inevitable link between business and politics. He assumed that the Republican party would be a valuable ally for his business endeavors and became actively involved in the campaign of the Ohio Republicans who sought the presidency between 1880 and 1890: James A. Garfield (1881), John Sherman, and William McKinley. Hanna applied his business skills, such as corporate assessment and merchandising techniques, to the campaign process.

As the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Hanna successfully organized the campaign to elect William McKinley as president in 1896, and remained one of McKinley's closest advisors during his presidency. In 1897 he was appointed U.S. Senator from Ohio to replace John Sherman, who became McKinley's Secretary of State. Hanna then won full-term Senate elections in 1898 and 1903. When McKinley was assassinated in 1901, Hanna served as an advisor to President Theodore Roosevelt (190109), though he disagreed with many of Roosevelt's policies.

A successful businessman and U.S. Senator, Hanna died in 1904.

See also: Gold Standard, Theodore Roosevelt


Beer, Thomas. Hanna. New York: A. A. Knopf, 1929.

Croly, Herbert David. Marcus Alonzo Hanna: His Life and Work. Hamden, Connecticut: Archon Books, 1965.

Garraty, John A., and Jerome L. Sterstein, eds. Encyclopedia of American Biography, 2nd edition. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1996, s.v. "Hanna, Marcus Alonzo."

O'Brien, Steven G. American Political Leaders from Colonial Times to the Present. Santa Barbara: ABCCLIO, Inc., 1991.

Stern, Clarence Ames. Resurgent Republicanism: The Handiwork of Hanna. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1963.

Marcus Alonzo Hanna

views updated Jun 27 2018

Marcus Alonzo Hanna

Businessman, politician, and U.S. senator, Marcus Alonzo Hanna (1837-1904) managed the election of President William McKinley and was a leading spokesman for enlightened capitalism.

Mark Hanna was born on Sept. 24, 1837, in New Lisbon (now Lisbon), Ohio. His parents were well educated. Young Hanna enjoyed material comfort and relative social privilege. When the family moved to Cleveland in 1852, he completed public school and attended Western Reserve College briefly.

Business permeated Hanna's youthful environment and immediately absorbed his energies. He became a full partner in the family grocery firm after his father's death in 1862. Following his marriage in 1864, he launched ventures in lake transportation and oil refining, areas of enterprise that were also attracting his Cleveland schoolmate John D. Rockefeller. Hanna later joined his father-in-law in a large iron and coal firm.

Politics, a vigorous Ohio tradition, early engaged Hanna's attention, and he embraced the Republican party instinctively. To his father-in-law, a fervent Democrat, he seemed "a damned screecher for freedom." In reality, despite this appearance and later skirmishes with Cleveland's ward bosses in the 1870s, Hanna was no reformer, but he realized that business and politics were becoming increasingly related. He lent his organizational talents and money to the Ohio Republicans who sought the presidency between 1880 and 1900: James A. Garfield, John Sherman, and William McKinley. He helped elect McKinley governor of Ohio in 1891 and president in 1896 and 1900. His management of the McKinley campaigns marked the successful application of business skills to American politics. Between 1897 and his death Hanna served in the Senate. He was a trusted presidential adviser to McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, despite his opposition to many of the latter's policies.

Although labeled "dollar Mark" by opponents, Hanna was no mere moneygrubber. The gold standard, high tariff, and large corporations—all of which he defended— seemed means to ensure general prosperity by stabilizing capitalism. For similar reasons he defended labor's right to organize and strike. After 1900 he championed ship subsidies and an Isthmian canal to increase America's power through international trade.

Although Hanna introduced the phrase "stand pat" into the American vocabulary, his dream of domestic and international order through responsible capitalism was not a formula for do-nothingism. His instinctive idealism and his concern for the public weal represented the best of American Whig attitudes. Unfortunately for his reputation, he became, even before his death, a symbol of many reactionary business attitudes that he had personally condemned.

Further Reading

Herbert D. Croly, Marcus Alonzo Hanna (1912), the standard biography, is sometimes overly sympathetic. Thomas Beer, Hanna (1929), is a bright, cynical study by the son of one of Hanna's associates. H. Wayne Morgan, William McKinley and His America (1963), describes Hanna's role with balanced sympathy. □

Hanna, Marcus Alonzo

views updated May 23 2018

Hanna, Marcus Alonzo (1837–1904) US Republican politician. A wealthy businessman, his campaign management and financial support helped William McKinley win the 1896 presidential election. His use of advertising is widely seen as the beginning of modern campaign politics.

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