Lewis B. Tanner
"There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune."
THE man who is industrious, alert and watching for this tide will see it coming, and with
bellying sail and bending oar will hasten to reach the anchorage in the haven of a
competence. Shakespeare's metaphor is the old story of opportunity, of which the
successful man takes advantage. There are few men to whom opportunity has not
come. Opportunity may mean the chance to accumulate a sudden fortune, and it may
mean the chance for the manifestation of the business ability that lies behind the
industrial features of the country.
When L. B. Tanner came to Nome in the spring of 1900 he did not have much
money, but he saw in the chaotic condition of business the opportunity to begin in a
small way in a line of work with which he was familiar, and he knew that the
development of a new country would permit the business to grow. Having learned the trade
of a builder and contractor from his father, and having followed it for years, he was
familiar with the lumber business. A number of traders had brought stocks of lumber
to Nome, and he set about to secure these small stocks. There was an apparent surplus
of many articles of merchandise in the Nome market that year, and there were merchants and would-be merchants with cold feet. With the material secured from men
who brought miscellaneous cargoes, including lumber, to Nome, Mr. Turner started a
lumber yard. It was not an adjunct of another business -- he dealt in lumber exclusively, and devoted all of his energy to his business. The growth of the town and the
development of the mines created a steady and an increasing demand for the material he
was handling, and the size of his lumber yard increased as his business grew.
By 1902 the business had grown to considerable proportions. This fact, together
with Mr. Tanner's plans to reduce the price of lumber by buying timber and operating
a sawmill, and shipping direct from his own plant, induced him to seek a good man for
a partner to handle one end of the line while he looked after the business at the other
end. This man was found in W. A. Clark, and the firm of Tanner & Clark took
charge of the business. Mr. Tanner went out to Washington at the close of the season
of 1902, and bought timber land equipped with a sawmill plant in King County, and
in two years the firm has cut and shipped to Nome near 12,000,000 feet of
lumber. Much of this material has been shipped in chartered schooners. The yard
in Nome at the close of navigation of the past two seasons has contained between
5,000,000 and 6,000,000 feet of lumber. A complete modern planing mill is a
part of the equipment of this yard. From a modest beginning this business has advanced
to a leading position, and in the history of the business of Nome is a monument to
enterprise, energy and honest methods.
Mr. Tanner is a native of Canada. He was born in Brantford, Ontario. January
17, 1866 and was educated in the public schools of the province. He learned the
trade of a builder and contractor. which he followed, with the exception of a few years
devoted to mining in the Rossland and Trail Creek country, B. C. and the Klondike
region, until he came to Nome. He emigrated from Canada in 1890, going to Seattle
and subsequently to Portland, Ore. In 1898 he went to Dawson, but returned to
Seattle the following year. He came to Nome in the spring of 1900 on the steamer
Alpha, and began the successful business career narrated in the foregoing. September
5, 1900, L. B. Tanner and Miss M. N. Pickard were married in Tacoma.
Mr. Tanner deserves credit for his success, but more credit for the methods by
which he achieved this success. In the earlier days of his thriving business he has said:
"If the town of Nome should be destroyed by fire tonight the price of lumber in
yard would be the same tomorrow as it is today." In a new town, remote from its
base of supplies, there are frequent chances to take advantage of other men's necessities,
but these methods were not Mr. Tanner's conception of the way to obtain the confidence
and patronage of the public. With the good quality of business rectitude he possesses
sound judgment and quick perception, is brimful of energy which must find a vent in
work, but never too busy for the social amenities of the gentleman.
Source: Nome and Seward Peninsula by R. S.
Harrison. Seattle: The Metropolitan Press, 1905.