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THE BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF IOWA

University of Iowa Press Digital Editions
MacNider, Hanford "Jack"
(October 2, 1889–February 18, 1968)

–soldier, businessman, statesman, and presidential candidate—was born in Mason City, Iowa, the son of Charles McNider, a successful local banker, and May (Hanford) McNider. (Hanford changed the spelling of his last name from McNider to the traditional Scottish MacNider.) From 1903 to 1907 he attended Milton Academy, a preparatory school in Massachusetts, then attended Harvard University, graduating in 1911. While at Harvard, he was a member of the theatrical club Hasty Pudding and served as the editor of the Crimson, the Harvard college newspaper.

    After graduation, MacNider returned to Mason City to work as a bookkeeper in his father's bank. He joined the Iowa National Guard and served as a first lieutenant during the 1916-1917 Mexican Border Campaign. When the United States entered World War I, MacNider accepted a commission as a second lieutenant in the regular army and was assigned to the Ninth Infantry Regiment of the Second Division, but upon arriving in France was detached to teach in an officer candidate school behind the lines. After six months, he left his post without permission to join his unit at the front. He served with distinction, rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, and earned 13 medals, including two Distinguished Service Crosses.

    After the war, MacNider returned to his father's bank in Mason City and became active in the newly organized American Legion. He was elected state commander of the American Legion in 1920 and national commander in 1921. In 1922 he declined an appointment by Governor Nathan Kendall to serve in the U.S. Senate, later explaining, "I am not a politician and never was."

    Although he did not consider himself a politician, MacNider became deeply involved in the Republican Party. In 1924 he founded the Republican Service League, which he used to support conservative candidates and causes. Drawing its membership primarily from Iowa Legionnaires, the league effectively functioned as a political action committee for the American Legion, which by its charter was required to be nonpartisan. MacNider's prominence in Republican Party politics led to his appointment as assistant secretary of war, a position he held from 1925 to 1928.

    In 1928, after his father's death, MacNider again returned to Mason City to manage the family's interests. During the Great Depression, he took control of the troubled Northwestern States Portland Cement Company in Mason City, returning it to profitability. He served as president of the company until 1960, building it into one of the nation's largest cement producers.

    In 1930 President Herbert Hoover appointed MacNider to be the U.S. envoy to Canada. Upon his arrival in Ottawa in August 1930, MacNider created a stir and broke tradition by presenting his credentials while wearing his military uniform. His most notable success as Canadian envoy–he served until August 1932—was to negotiate a treaty concerning the proposed St. Lawrence Seaway.

    Throughout the 1930s MacNider continued his involvement in Republican Party politics. His name had been suggested as a vice presidential candidate in 1928 and 1932, and in 1940 he became Iowa's "favorite son" candidate for the presidential nomination, although he received very little support from outside the state. An ardent isolationist, Mac-Nider became an active member of the America First Committee, but resigned three days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. After the attack, he went to the War Department in Washington and insisted on being recalled to active duty.

    On August 17, 1942, MacNider was promoted to brigadier general and assigned to a staff position in New Guinea. In November of that year, he became the first American general to be wounded in the Pacific Theater. After a lengthy recuperation, during which doctors were unable to save the sight in his left eye, he returned to action and was given command of the 158th Regimental Combat Team ("The Bushmasters") in the Philippines. He continued to serve with distinction, and received numerous awards and citations.

    After the war, MacNider continued to serve in the army until he was required to retire in 1951, whereupon he returned to private life and his business interests in Mason City. In 1956 he was advanced to the rank of lieutenant general on the retired list. MacNider and his wife, Margaret McAuley, had three sons: Tom, Jack, and Angus. MacNider died of a heart attack in 1968 in Sarasota, Florida, while on vacation.
Sources MacNider's papers are at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, West Branch, Iowa. See also Dorothy H. Rankin, "Hanford MacNider," Annals of Iowa 33 (1956), 233–67; and "The Many Lives of Hanford MacNider," Iowan 13 (Spring 1965), 34– 47, 52.
Contributor: Spencer Howard

Cite as: Howard, Spencer. "MacNider, Hanford "Jack"" The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. University of Iowa Press, 2009. Web. 13 December 2017