Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 40

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 40


This is the grave of Mark Hanna.

2016-03-23 15.56.54

Mark Hanna was the premier Republican kingmaker of the Gilded Age. Most famous for his close association with William McKinley, Hanna became a major Cleveland businessmen in the years after the Civil War, getting involved in a wide variety of projects. A lifelong Republican and supporter of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, Hanna turned to politics by 1880. In an era of convoluted political machinations in presidential politics, Hanna hoped to use his influence and power to launch Ohio politicians onto the national stage. This began in the fall of 1880 when Hanna did much to manage James Garfield’s presidential campaign, in particula convincing Ulysses S. Grant to come visit Garfield at his home in a sign of unity after a deeply fractured convention led to the rise of the darkhorse Garfield. Hanna didn’t even like Garfield that much because Hanna opposed civil service reform and liked the spoils system, but supporting Ohio politicians would be his key to power. Hanna then sought to make Ohio senator John Sherman president, beginning in 1884, even though he never actually met Sherman until 1885. When that failed and James Blaine received the Republican nomination, Sherman got Hanna appointed to the Union Pacific Railroad’s board of directors. In the Gilded Age, no inside dealing went unrewarded. If Hanna believed in anything other than power and Ohio, it was the power of capitalists to do whatever they wanted.

Hanna then moved on to work for William McKinley, having been impressed by him in 1888, when he actually suggested that Sherman step aside for the rising Ohioan. Sherman refused and Hanna continued working for him, but Benjamin Harrison received the nomination that year. Realizing that the next chance for an Ohioan president was in 1896 and that Sherman would be too old by then, Hanna put all his eggs in the McKinley basket. McKinley became governor of Ohio in 1891. Hanna insured Sherman’s reelection to the Senate the next year and Ohio Republicans were largely unified. Hanna then worked for the next four years to ensure McKinley’s nomination, dealing with other party bosses, planning campaign strategy, buying a home in the South to build connections with southern Republicans who could still play a major role in the convention. This was only partially successful, as many state level bosses wanted nothing to do with McKinley because he refused to allow them to control local patronage. But McKinley easily beat back any native son candidacies and became the nominee, thanks to Hanna’s work. It was Hanna’s finest hour. The Democratic press attacked Hanna as McKinley’s corporate master, but this charge did not stick enough to throw the election to William Jennings Bryan. Nor did it defeat Hanna’s groundbreaking fundraising campaign.

Hanna did not want a Cabinet position in return for all his work, thinking it would be seen as a corrupt bargain. So McKinley asked John Sherman to be Secretary of State. He agreed and Hanna won his position in the Senate. Hanna continued to advise McKinley closely from the Senate, even though he opposed the Spanish-American War, he also made sure McKinley got his declaration of war from the Senate. Although Hanna was horrified when Theodore Roosevelt won the VP slot in 1900 and even more horrified when he became president upon McKinley’s assassination, Hanna and Roosevelt came to a working relationship. Hanna strongly considered running for the Republican nomination in 1904 against Roosevelt. J.P. Morgan said he would fund Hanna’s campaign. But Hanna’s health was rapidly declining and he died on February 15, 1904.

Mark Hanna is buried in Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio.

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  • CP

    So… basically, he was Boss Tweed on a national level? At least, sounds like what he wanted to be.

    Also, I was kind of surprised to find out that there even were any Southern Republicans left by the 1890s, outside of a few places like East Tennessee.

    • I wouldn’t really compare him to Tweed–Tweed was only on the take, whereas Hanna wanted power and access.

      Segregation and Jim Crow were more of a process that people recognize. It took a long time to end all black political participation in the South. It wasn’t like it was a flash when the Army pulled out of the South in 1877. So by the 1890s, while there were some areas with no black political participation, in other areas, there was until a bit after 1900. There were also a few more white Republicans than you would think.

      • CrunchyFrog

        I do remember reading some newspaper editorials written in the south in the late 1880s that argued against some of the early Jim Crow laws saying, in effect, that if you did this then you might as well just do X, Y, and Z, with the context being that X, Y, and Z were self-evidently absurd. And some letters responded saying “Well of course we’d never do X, Y, and Z with the Negro population.” The irony being that X, Y, and Z turned out to be the law of the south within 20 years.

        • los

          of course we’d never do X, Y, and Z with the Negro population
          “Rounding up the jews into death camps? That will never happen!”

          in North and South, the backlash of corruption descended upon government.
          It is tragic how quickly “political revolutions” – abolition[1] apparently requiring the cost of creating the Republican Party – gets reversed to a great extent.

          1. with the additional cost of a civil war

      • cpinva

        “There were also a few more white Republicans than you would think.”

        not that surprising really. contrary to what the state of TX would have us all believe, the confederacy wasn’t one huge, unified block, with everyone chomping at the bit to secede. a pretty fair sized % of the southern white population had no interest in breaking away from the union, and many of them were probably republicans.

        • The Dark God of Time

          One of my TX ancestors was in the TX Rifles, but deserted after being in arrears of pay for two weeks.

      • osceola

        Yes to that last paragraph, Erik. Even in the 1890s, the Texas legislature still had a few black members who were Republicans from counties with large black populations. Also quite a few Germans were Republican since the war.

      • CP

        I knew it was a process and not just something that happened like flipping on a light switch – I just didn’t know it had taken that long.

        I totally believe the “more white Republicans than we think” thing. That was actually one of the things I liked about “Free State of Jones” when I saw it a week ago. The go-to defense for every white racist alive before 1965 is “oh, but you don’t understand, EVERYONE was racist back then!” Which isn’t true, is transparently done to exonerate these people, and needs to be pushed back on.

      • Woodrowfan

        Virginia didn’t disenfranchise most black voters until the 1902 Constitution. It’s still the Constitution Virginia has today, FWIW.

        People always think of 1877 because textbooks have to have convenient dates. It’s difficult to get my students to think beyond the convention date ranges they learned in school.

  • Somehow in my two semesters (!) of Ohio History in the Cleveland Public Schools, though we heard a lot about Ohio as “the cradle of presidents” (or some such slogan), I don’t think we heard a damned thing about Hanna’s bossism (surely we heard about his industrialist sagacity, though I don’t actually remember that either).

  • cpinva

    I have to say prof. Loomis, this “American Grave” series of posts has been very enlightening, I’ve never even heard of about half of these people, before your posts on them. this would be a great series to use, as the basis of a US History class.

    • los

      I’ve never even heard of about half of these people
      Oh yes, the 1890s – I don’t remember them well… failing to remember anything from my past lives is so irritating.

      You too?

    • It’s always nice that people find my weird obsessions useful.

      • bender

        All I knew about Hanna was the Cliff Notes version. I had him in a generic category of “corrupt political bosses.” It is interesting to read how being a political boss worked, and where people drew the line between corruption and legitimate rewards for services.

  • LFC

    Mention of the 1896 presidential election reminds me that there was a rather interesting post elsewhere (namely, the U.S. Intellectual History blog) recently in which a historian riffed on Walter Dean Burnham’s idea of ‘critical elections’, i.e., elections that (as I understood the summary) either led to or solidified an ideological and/or partisan realignment. So in the case of 1896, on this argument, Bryan’s defeat and McKinley’s victory marked the effective end, for a while at least, of the populist/agrarian challenge to industrial capitalism. The Progressives did come along and smoothed off some of the system’s rough edges and reined in corporate power to some extent. But the 1896 result was important for setting a course; also in foreign policy, where it solidified things that were already in train.

    Btw, for people interested in U.S. history but not so much in international-relations theory, you can skip the theory parts (in fact, 95 percent of readers shd prob skip them) and just read the historical chaps. of F. Zakaria’s From Wealth to Power: The Unusual Origins of America’s World Role (1998), which is pretty good on this period in U.S. for. policy, though approached from a decidedly non-radical standpoint.

    • LFC

      p.s. and if you don’t like, a priori, anything by Zakaria, you can find some good stuff referenced in his footnotes, a lot of which is the standard historiography, but still.

    • CP

      I always saw 1896 as the beginning of the grassroots pushback against industrial capitalism in its Gilded Age form. What kick-started the process that led to the Progressive Era and eventually the New Deal and Great Society.

      • LFC

        Hmm. Will think on that.

        Reminds me of an Agatha Christie dialogue as repeated by Pieter Geyl in ‘Debates with Historians’.

        A young girl says to her older relative: “History is such rot. It’s quite different out of different books.”

        To which the relative replies: “Ah, that is its real interest.”

        • skate

          Wish I could remember who said, “History is spin.”

          You just have to figure out what direction the author is trying to spin it.

  • LFC

    Btw that grave is more like a mausoleum — is that fairly common for rich, powerful Gilded Age figures?

    • Ronan

      An interesting factoid I learnt the other day. Did you know pres John Tyler’s grandkids are still alive (or at least were three years ago)


      • LFC

        No I didn’t know that. They must be extremely old. Sorry not clicking on link rt now. Later.

        • skate

          They were both roughly 90 at the time of the article. Their dad, Tyler’s 13th child, was about 75 when they were born, and Tyler was in his 60s when their dad was born.

          • LFC

            thks, now I guess I don’t have to click.

    • N__B

      There are a lot of those big mausoleums in the victorian-era cemeteries I visit.* I’m not sure when the craze started or ended, but I’ve seen them as early as the 1840s and as late as the 1910s.

      *Occasionally for work, occasionally as a tourist.

      • LFC

        I’ve seen a few here and there (either pictures or standing in front of) but didn’t really note the dates. But I do recall some e.g. in Highgate Cemetery in London when I was there many yrs ago as a tourist. (Marx’s grave, though noticeable in its own way, is not one of them.)

      • bender

        The Greek Revival style of this one is a little old fashioned for 1904. I wonder whether it was built for an older relative.

        • N__B

          I saw an Egyptian revival one on Friday. Probably built in the 1840s.

    • Yeah, not universal but definitely common for the rich of that era.

  • snarkout

    Give advance warning the next time you’re in Cleveland, and maybe I can stand you a round at the excellent if confusingly-named beer bar La Cave du Vin, a few short blocks away from the Cleveland Heights exit of Lake View Cemetery.

    • Definitely. I’ve heard of that place but never been.

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