To any resident of Minneapolis or the northwest the name of M. J. Scanlon is synonymous with the lumber trade. So extensive and important have been his operations that he has become an outstanding figure in connection with the manufacture and sale of lumber, his operations being carried on in various sections of the north, south, west, Canada and the West India Islands.
Mr. Scanlon, a son of M. J. and Mary E. (McDonnell) Scanlon, was born near Lyndon, Wisconsin, August 24, 1861, and pursued his education in the district schools and in the high school at Mauston, Wisconsin, where he was graduated in 1879. In 1881 he became a law student in the University of Wisconsin at Madison but after a time decided not to enter upon the legal profession and in the autumn of 1884 he went to Omaha, Nebraska, where he pursued a course of study in a business college, completing the work in the spring of 1885. Immediately afterward he became bookkeeper for the K. S. Newcomb Lumber Company, one of the subsidiary interests of the S. K. Martin Lumber Company. He won rapid promotion until he was given charge of the purchases and sales of the company, with which he remained for a period of four years, resigning his position on the 1st of March, 1889, to become secretary of the C. H. Ruddock Lumber Company of Minneapolis, then extensively engaged in the manufacture of lumber in the northwest. In the fall of 1890 the company decided to close up its Minneapolis business and purchased a large tract of cypress timber lands in the vicinity of New Orleans and organized the Ruddock Cypress Company, of which Mr. Scanlon was made secretary. The headquarters of the new organization were at New Orleans and there Mr. Scanlon took charge of sales and credits, remaining in the south until March, 1892, when because of the condition of his wife's health he disposed of his interest in the Ruddock Cypress Company and returned to Minneapolis. In the meantime he had become familiar with every phase of the lumber industry and here he organized the firm of Scanlon, Gipson & Company to conduct a jobbing business, buying lumber in Minnesota and Wisconsin and selling to the trade tributary to Minneapolis. In November, 1894, the firm style was changed to the Scanlon-Gipson Lumber Company, with which the Brooks Elevator Company became identified. The new organization acquired a large tract of timber land in the vicinity of Nickerson, Minnesota, which had been partially fire killed during the great forest fires in the fall of 1894. Mills were built immediately which were operated day and night, winter and summer, manufacturing annually fifty million feet of lumber for an extended period. From the beginning the company enjoyed an extensive patronage and after a time purchased the lumber business of H. F. Brown of Minneapolis and thus acquired a plant with splendid shipping facilities, so that the company was thus able to take care of the rush order business. At Minneapolis the annual sale was sixty million feet of lumber until 1905, when, because of the company's timber being exhausted, the Minneapolis business was discontinued. In 1898 the company found it necessary to build another mill to take care of its constantly increasing trade and a large body of timber was purchased in the northern part of the state, while a double band mill was erected at Cass Lake with an annual capacity of fifty million feet. Within the next few years the firm became so well and favorably known and its trade so great that they found it necessary to manufacture more lumber to take care of their business. It was then - in 1901 - that the Brooks-Scanlon Lumber Company was organized with a paid up capital of one million, seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars and Mr. Scanlon was elected vice president of the company. The new corporation built an immense five band and gang sawmill at Scanlon, Minnesota, with a daily capacity of six hundred thousand feet. "This was probably one of the finest and best arranged sawmills in the country. For a number of years it held the world's record for output, being upwards of one hundred million feet annually. In 1899 the Brooks-Scanlon Lumber Company commenced purchasing timber near Bend, Oregon, and now owns a vast quantity of standing white pine timber. In 1915 the company built a modern two band and band resaw mill at Bend with an annual capacity of ninety million feet. In the autumn of 1922 it commenced the construction of a three band electrical driven mill. This mill is the last word in sawmill design and construction. The combined capacity of the two mills is two hundred million feet per year. The paid up capital of the company was increased to six million dollars early in 1923 to take care of its constantly increasing business. In order to insure a supply of logs for the company's mills at Nickerson and Scanlon, the Minnesota & North Wisconsin Railroad Company was organized. It built seventy-five miles of standard gauge railroad, on which was laid heavy steel, and the equipment was extra heavy and modern in every respect.
Mr. Scanlon has always been a man of great business ambition and broad views with reference to his line of trade. His several companies were manufacturing upwards of two hundred and fifty million feet per year and, with the rapid disappearance of timber in this state, local conditions and requirements became too contracted to satisfy his demands, and in 1905 he turned his attention to the great forests of yellow pine timber of the south. Another company, known as the Brooks-Scanlon Company, with a paid up capital of one million five hundred thousand dollars, was organized with Mr. Scanlon as president. This company acquired a vast area of virgin long leaf yellow pine timber in Louisiana. It also purchased the mills and timber of another company at Kentwood, Louisiana, and immediately built a new double band and gang mill at the same point, which gives the company an output of about one hundred and twenty million feet per year. The company's plants are the most modern and complete plants in the south and are a source of considerable pride to the company. In addition to lumbering, the company is carrying on naval stores operations on a large scale. The output of the mills and turpentine orchards is sold to the foreign and domestic trade and enjoys a high reputation. The Kentwood & Eastern Railway Company, with its sixty miles of road and equipment, performs a function for the Brooks-Scanlon Company similar to the Minnesota & North Wisconsin Railroad Company for its allied concerns in the northwest. In October, 1917, Mr. Scanlon and his associates organized the Brooks-Scanlon Corporation, with a capital of ten million dollars, and purchased the mills and four hundred thousand acres of long leaf yellow pine and cypress timber holdings of the Carpenter-O'Brien Company. The company is now manufacturing ninety million feet of pine and forty million feet of cypress per annum. Mr. Scanlon is also president of this corporation. In the autumn of 1922 the Brooks-Scanlon Company purchased the mills, timber and entire operations of the P. L. Howe Lumber Mills at Eureka, Montana. This plant will produce seventy-five million feet per year and, like all its other plants, the mills are being operated to full capacity.
Mr. Scanlon is vice president of the Bahamas Cuban Company, Limited, of Normans Castle, Abaco Island, the Bahamas. This company owns vast tracts of very valuable pitch pine timber in the Bahamas. It owns and operates an up-to-date sawmill plant with all modern appliances at Normans Castle and markets its output through its own distributing yards in Cuba. He is also vice president of the Brooks-Scanlon-O'Brien Company, Limited, Vancouver, British Columbia. This company owns a splendid body of timber in western Canada and is logging and marketing the logs at the rate of fifty to sixty millions per year. During the early part of 1922 he organized the M. J. Scanlon Lumber Company with a capital of seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars and acquired the mills and timber holdings of Cox Brothers Company at Massack, California. Mr. Scanlon is the president of the company, but the management of the business is in the hands of his son, Robert H. In addition to his interests in operating lumber companies, Mr. Scanlon is heavily interested in and a great believer in standing timber. He is president of the Central Florida Lumber Company, which owns one hundred and ten thousand acres of timber land in Florida; president of the Brooks-Robertson Timber Company and Oregon Timber Company, large owners of pine timber in central Oregon; president of the American Timber Holding Company, North American Timber Holding Company, Johnson Straits Lumber Company and Brooks Timber Company, all large owners of timber on the Pacific slope. In 1909 he organized and became vice president of the Powell River Company, Limited, with a paid up capital of three million five hundred thousand dollars. The company purchased timber land on the Pacific coast and a magnificent water power at Powell River, British Columbia, and immediately began the construction of a newsprint paper mill at Powell River, which was completed and put in operation in May, 1913. This plant is one of the largest newsprint paper mills in the world. The buildings are of reinforced concrete throughout, the machinery is of the latest design and the best money could buy. In fact, the whole plant is said to be the last word in paper mill construction. This company enjoys the distinction of being the only paper company that owns a perpetual supply of pulp timber for its plants. The combined production of the Brooks-Scanlon mills is well above five hundred million feet per year and extensive plans for further increase in production are now under consideration.
On the 26th of November, 1890, in Minneapolis, Mr. Scanlon was united in marriage to Mrs. Sarah W. Henkle, nee Plummer, of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, and they have become parents of two daughters and a son: Helen M., Bonnie W. and Robert H. In religious faith Mr. Scanlon is a Catholic and his political support is given to the democratic party. He belongs to the Minneapolis, Minikahda and Lafayette Clubs and is widely known not only in Minnesota but in various sections of the country through the extent and importance of his business interests. He has long been in control of mammoth activities in connection with the lumber trade and later with pulp and paper interests and is recognized as a notably strong organizer and executive, possessing initiative and enterprise that enables him to combine unrelated and oft times seemingly diverse interests into a unified and harmonious whole.