(b. New Lisbon, Ohio, 24 Sept. 1837; d. Washington, DC, 15 Feb. 1904)
US; US Senator 1897–1904 The son of a doctor who became a wholesale grocery merchant, Hanna attended local schools in Cleveland, Ohio, where his family lived from 1852, and Western Reserve College, Hudson, Ohio. In 1858 he entered a copper and iron ore firm, a subsidiary of his father's business, and rapidly worked his way up from labourer in the warehouse, to bookkeeper, salesman, and purser on one of the firm's ships. After his father's death, in 1862, he became a partner in the business with his uncle. He continued to manage the firm, with an interlude of 100 days devoted to defending Washington during the Civil War, until 1867, when he sold his share and entered a business association with his father-in-law. Thereafter he turned his hand successfully to a wide range of business ventures including: copper; blast furnaces; street railways; shipping; banking and publishing.
Hanna's interest in business was complemented by an interest in Republican party politics. He was one of the new breed of party bosses to emerge after the 1883 Civil Service Reform Act curbed patronage as a source of revenue and prompted politicians to turn increasingly to big business for money and support. He played an active part in every political campaign from 1867 until his death. Between 1888 and 1900 he was de facto Republican ‘king-maker’ managing Senator John Sherman's successful bid for the party's presidential nomination in 1888, William McKinley's in 1892, and persuaded the party to nominate McKinley on the first ballot at the 1896 national convention. Selected as chairman of the Republican national committee in 1896, he became a key figure in national politics. McKinley's victory over William Jennings Bryan, the choice of both the Populists and the Democrats, in the election that year is widely attributed to Hanna's fund-raising and skills of political management.
A year later, in 1897, Hanna became US Senator for Ohio, appointed to complete a year's unexpired term of John Sherman who had accepted a post in McKinley's Cabinet. The following year he won a full term in the Senate after a contested election in the state legislature, and was re-elected for a further term but died before taking his seat. During his time in the Senate he remained a dominant figure in his party and an influential adviser to McKinley and then Theodore Roosevelt.