|William Randolph Hearst
|Hearst in 1906, photograph by James E. Purdy
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York‘s 11th district
March 4, 1903 – March 4, 1907
||Charles V. Fornes
||April 29, 1863
San Francisco, California, U.S.
||August 14, 1951 (aged 88)
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
||Democratic Party (1896–1935)
Independence Party (1905–1910)
Municipal Ownership League (1904–05)
||Millicent Willson Hearst (1903–1951)
||Phoebe Apperson Hearst, mother
George Hearst, father
Patty Hearst, granddaughter
Anne Hearst, granddaughter
Lydia Hearst-Shaw, great-granddaughter
Amanda Hearst, great-granddaughter
Marion Davies, mistress
||George Randolph Hearst (1904–1972)
William Randolph Hearst, Jr. (1908–1993)
John Randolph Hearst (1910–1958)
Randolph Apperson Hearst (1915–2000)
David Whitmire Hearst (1915–1986)
San Simeon, California
||Businessman & publisher
William Randolph Hearst (//; April 29, 1863 – August 14, 1951) was an American newspaper publisher who built the nation’s largest newspaper chain and whose methods profoundly influenced American journalism. Hearst entered the publishing business in 1887 after taking control of The San Francisco Examiner from his father. Moving to New York City, he acquired The New York Journal and engaged in a bitter circulation war with Joseph Pulitzer‘s New York World that led to the creation of yellow journalism—sensationalized stories of dubious veracity. Acquiring more newspapers, Hearst created a chain that numbered nearly 30 papers in major American cities at its peak. He later expanded to magazines, creating the largest newspaper and magazine business in the world.
He was twice elected as a Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives, and ran unsuccessfully for Mayor of New York City in 1905 and 1909, for Governor of New York in 1906, and for Lieutenant Governor of New York in 1910. Nonetheless, through his newspapers and magazines, he exercised enormous political influence, and was famously blamed for pushing public opinion with his yellow journalism type of reporting leading the United States into a war with Spain in 1898.
His life story was the main inspiration for the development of the lead character in Orson Welles‘s film Citizen Kane. His mansion, Hearst Castle, on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean near San Simeon, California, halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, was donated by the Hearst Corporation to the state of California in 1957, and is now a State Historical Monument and a National Historic Landmark, open for public tours. Hearst formally named the estate La Cuesta Encantada (“The Enchanted Slope”), but he usually just called it “the ranch.”
Ancestry and early life
William R. Hearst was born in San Francisco to millionaire mining engineer, goldmine owner and U.S. senator (1886–91) George Hearst and his wife Phoebe Apperson Hearst.
His paternal great-grandfather was John Hearst, of Scots-Irish origin, who emigrated to America with his wife and six children in 1766 and settled in South Carolina. Their immigration to South Carolina was spurred in part by the colonial government’s policy that encouraged the immigration of Irish Protestants. The names “John Hearse” and “John Hearse Jr.” appear on the council records of October 26, 1766, being credited with meriting 400 and 100 acres (1.62 and 0.40 km2) of land on the Long Canes (in what became Abbeville District), based upon 100 acres (0.40 km2) to heads of household and 50 acres (200,000 m2) for each dependent of a Protestant immigrant. The “Hearse” spelling of the family name never was used afterward by the family members themselves, or any family of any size. A separate theory purports that one branch of a “Hurst” family of Virginia (originally from Plymouth Colony) moved to South Carolina at about the same time and changed the spelling of its surname of over a century to that of the emigrant Hearsts. Hearst’s mother, née Phoebe Elizabeth Apperson, was of Irish ancestry; her family came from Galway. She was the first woman regent of University of California, Berkeley, funded many anthropological expeditions and founded the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology.
Following preparation at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, Hearst enrolled in the Harvard College class of 1885. While there he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon, the A.D. Club (a Harvard Final club), the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, and of the Harvard Lampoon before being expelled for antics ranging from sponsoring massive beer parties in Harvard Square to sending pudding pots used as chamber pots to his professors (their images were depicted within the bowls).
An ad asking automakers to place ads in Hearst chain, noting their circulation.
Searching for an occupation, in 1887 Hearst took over management of a newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner, which his father received in 1880 as repayment for a gambling debt. Giving his paper a grand motto, “Monarch of the Dailies,” he acquired the best equipment and the most talented writers of the time, including Ambrose Bierce, Mark Twain, Jack London, and political cartoonist Homer Davenport. A self-proclaimed populist, Hearst went on to publish stories of municipal and financial corruption, often attacking companies in which his own family held an interest. Within a few years, his paper dominated the San Francisco market.
New York Morning Journal
Early in his career at the San Francisco Examiner, Hearst envisioned running a large newspaper chain, and “always knew that his dream of a nation-spanning, multi-paper news operation was impossible without a triumph in New York.” In 1895, with the financial support of his mother, he bought the failing New York Morning Journal, hiring writers like Stephen Crane and Julian Hawthorne and entering into a head-to-head circulation war with Joseph Pulitzer, owner and publisher of the New York World, from whom he “stole” Richard F. Outcault, the inventor of color comics, and all of Pulitzer’s Sunday staff as well. Another prominent hire was James J. Montague, who came from the Portland Oregonian and started his well-known “More Truth Than Poetry” column at the Hearst-owned New York Evening Journal.
When Hearst purchased the “penny paper,” so called because its copies sold for only a penny apiece, the Journal was competing with New York’s 16 other major dailies, with a strong focus on Democratic Party politics. Hearst imported his best managers from the San Francisco Examiner and “quickly established himself as the most attractive employer” among New York newspapers. He was generous, paid more than his competitors, gave credit to his writers with page-one bylines, and was unfailingly polite, unassuming, “impeccably calm,” and indulgent of “prima donnas, eccentrics, bohemians, drunks, or reprobates so long as they had useful talents.”
Hearst’s activist approach to journalism can be summarized by the motto, “While others Talk, the Journal Acts.”
In part to aid in his political ambitions, Hearst opened newspapers in some other cities, among them Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston. The creation of his Chicago paper was requested by the Democratic National Committee, and Hearst used this as an excuse for Phoebe Hearst to transfer him the necessary start-up funds. By the mid-1920s he had a nation-wide string of 28 newspapers, among them the Los Angeles Examiner, the Boston American, the Atlanta Georgian, the Chicago Examiner, the Detroit Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Washington Times, the Washington Herald, and his flagship the San Francisco Examiner.
Hearst also diversified his publishing interests into book publishing and magazines; several of the latter are still in circulation, including such periodicals as Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Town and Country, and Harper’s Bazaar.
Cartoonist Rogers in 1906 sees the political uses of Oz: he depicts William Randolph Hearst as the Scarecrow stuck in his own Ooze in Harper’s Weekly.
In 1924 he opened the New York Daily Mirror, a racy tabloid frankly imitating the New York Daily News, Among his other holdings were two news services, Universal News and International News Service, or INS, the latter of which he founded in 1909. He also owned INS companion radio station WINS in New York); King Features Syndicate, which still owns the copyrights of a number of popular comics characters; a film company, Cosmopolitan Productions; extensive New York City real estate; and thousands of acres of land in California and Mexico, along with timber and mining interests.
Hearst’s father, US Senator George Hearst, had acquired land in the Mexican state of Chihuahua after receiving advance notice that Geronimo – who had terrorized settlers in the region – had surrendered. George Hearst was able to buy 670,000 acres (270,000 ha), the Babicora Ranch, at 20–40 cents each because only he knew that they had become much more secure. George Hearst was on friendly terms with Porfirio Díaz, the Mexican dictator, who helped him settle boundary disputes profitably. The ranch was expanded to nearly 1,000,000 acres (400,000 ha) by George Hearst, then by Phoebe Hearst after his death. The younger Hearst was at Babicora as early as 1886, when, as he wrote to his mother, “I really don’t see what is to prevent us from owning all Mexico and running it to suit ourselves.” During the Mexican Revolution, his mother’s ranch was looted by irregulars under Pancho Villa. Babicora was then occupied by Carranza’s forces. Phoebe Hearst willed the ranch to her son in 1919. Babicora was sold to the Mexican government for $2.5 million in 1953, just two years after Hearst’s death.
Hearst promoted writers and cartoonists despite the lack of any apparent demand for them by his readers. The press critic A. J. Liebling reminds us how many of Hearst’s stars would not have been deemed employable elsewhere. One Hearst favorite, George Herriman, was the inventor of the dizzy comic strip Krazy Kat; not especially popular with either readers or editors at the time of its initial publication, it is now considered by many to be a classic, a belief once held only by Hearst himself.
Two months before the Wall Street Crash of 1929, he became one of the sponsors of the first round-the-world voyage in an airship, the LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin from Germany. His sponsorship was conditional on the trip starting at Lakehurst Naval Air Station, NJ, so the ship’s captain, Dr. Hugo Eckener, first flew the Graf Zeppelin across the Atlantic from Germany to pick up Hearst’s photographer and at least three Hearst correspondents. One of them, Grace Marguerite Hay Drummond-Hay, by that flight became the first woman to travel around the world by air.
The Hearst news empire reached a circulation and revenue peak about 1928, but the economic collapse of the Great Depression and the vast over-extension of his empire cost him control of his holdings. It is unlikely that the newspapers ever paid their own way; mining, ranching and forestry provided whatever dividends the Hearst Corporation paid out. When the collapse came, all Hearst properties were hit hard, but none more so than the papers; Furthermore, his now-conservative politics, increasingly at odds with those of his readers, only worsened matters for the once great Hearst media chain. Having been refused the right to sell another round of bonds to unsuspecting investors, the shaky empire tottered. Unable to service its existing debts, Hearst Corporation faced a court-mandated reorganization in 1937. From that point, Hearst was reduced to being merely another employee, subject to the directives of an outside manager. Newspapers and other properties were liquidated, the film company shut down; there was even a well-publicized sale of art and antiquities. While World War II restored circulation and advertising revenues, his great days were over. Hearst died of a heart attack in 1951, aged eighty-eight, in Beverly Hills, California, and is buried at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma, California.
The Hearst Corporation continues to this day as a large, privately held media conglomerate based in New York City.
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