Sue Young Histories

William Randolph Hearst 1863 – 1951

August 10, 2009

William Randolph Hearst 1863 – 1951William Randolph Hearst 1863 – 1951 was an American newspaper magnate and leading newspaper publisher.

William’s mother Phoebe served on the Board of  Directors of the Hahnemann Medical College of the Pacific from 1882 to 1908, and she provided significant funding the establishment of the Hahnemann Hospital in San Francisco. She was also a life member of the Fabiola Homeopathic Hospital and Free Dispensary in Oakland, California (Dana Ullman, The Homeopathic Revolution: Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy. (North Atlantic Books, 2007). Pages 127 and 250).

William was initially skeptical of his mother’s passion for homeopathy, though he soon adopted the remedies his mother gave him and had his own remedy chest from which he treated himself when he was ill (Judith Robinson, The Hearsts: an American dynasty, (University of Delaware Press, 1991). Pages 160 and 255).

William was a friend of Charlie Chaplin, Royal Samuel Copeland, Stephen Crane, Douglas Fairbanks, Jack London, Franklin D Roosevelt, George Bernard Shaw, Mark Twain,

From Hearst was born in San Francisco, California, to millionaire mining engineer George Hearst and Phoebe Apperson. Following preparation at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, he enrolled in the Harvard College class of 1885, where he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Alpha chapter), the A.D. Club (a prestigious Harvard Final club), and of the Harvard Lampoon prior to his expulsion from Harvard for presenting several of his professors expensive chamber pots with their names elaborately painted on the inside.

Hearst entered the publishing business in 1887 after taking control of The San Francisco Examiner from his father. Moving to New York City [1895], he acquired The New York Journal and engaged in a bitter circulation war with Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World which 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, but 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 is sometimes credited with pushing public opinion in the United States into a war with Spain in 1898.

He was also a prominent leader of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party from 1896 to 1935, although he became more conservative later in life.

His life story was a source of inspiration for the lead character in Orson Welles’ classic film Citizen Kane. His palatial estate, Hearst Castle, near San Simeon, California, on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, 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’.