Ohio History Journal

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14





Mark Hanna's Goal:

American Harmony





'A man who won't meet his men half-way is a G_ d__ fool!' declared Mark Hanna

one day in 1894. He was referring to the Pullman strike and the fact that troops

had been sent to end it. That terse, profane comment tells a great deal about

Hanna. He was, above all else, a pragmatist with a canny ability to successfully

adjust to changing conditions. Twenty years previously, when his coal mines were

struck, troops had been brought in--with disastrous consequences. He had learned

much from this experience. Thereafter he tried diligently to show by example how

relations between labor, capital, and management could be ordered for the bene-

fit of all. The one solid absolute in his life was a profound belief in the living

standard capitalism had brought to America. To preserve that way of life, he fol-

lowed what he considered to be the most effective method of achieving his goal.

Important priorities included conservative labor unions, cooperative capitalists, a

sympathetic public and government, and loyal anti-Communist European immigrant

laborers--all working together to maintain an "essential harmony between the inter-

ests of business and the whole community."1

This general point of view, envisioning American society as an integrated,

mutually beneficial, harmonious whole, was not unique with Hanna. It was shared

also by many large conservative business interests in the late 1880's and through

the progressive era, though in modified forms. Several factors account for this

support by big business. One is that, despite the continued growth in the size of

industries, ruinous competition in the business world was threatening to weaken

the economic base of the country. From about 1897 to 1901, many corporations

attempted to combat such competition voluntarily through the merger movement.

Even though this method did not prove successful in achieving its purposes, many

businessmen and financial interests continued to seek a "stable," "predictable,"

and "rationalized" economy. Another challenge that the large industrialists had

to face came from the demands made by the growing number of labor unions.

Also, radical doctrines such as Socialism seemed to appeal especially to immigrant

workers and could prove to be a threat both to an economy based on capitalism




1. Quoted in Thomas Beer, Hanna (New York, 1929), 133; Herbert Croly, Marcus Alonzo Hanna:

His Life and Work (New York, 1912), 115.

Mr. Wolff is assistant professor of history at The University of South Dakota.