William Randolph Hearst

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William Randolph Hearst (April 29, 1863 – August 14, 1951) was an American newspaper magnate. He was born on 29 April 1863 in San Francisco, California, and died on 14 August 1951 in Beverly Hills, California.

William Randolph Hearst was the only son of Phoebe Apperson and George Hearst, a gold-mine owner and U.S. senator from California (1886–91). William studied at Harvard College for three years after which he was expelled for academic failures, exacerbated by “heedlessness”.[1]

In 1880 William's father, George Hearst, had bought the San Francisco Examiner and in 1887 William persuaded his father to put him in charge of this newspaper that at that time was struggling for existence. He experimented with flamboyant pictures and shrieking typography, while turning the paper into a blend of investigative reporting and blatant sensationalism. Within two years the paper made a profit. Bolstered by this success William then invaded the New York City newspaper market in 1895 by purchasing the unsuccessful New York Morning Journal. He hired talented writers and lured employees of other papers from their jobs by offering them higher salaries. The use of many illustrations, color magazine sections, and glaring headlines made the paper immensely popular and as it cost only one cent its circulation became unprecedented. Hearst's journalistic tactics led to a number of fierce circulation battles with rival newspapers. In one of these battles the papers tried to surpass each other with wild reports and lurid accounts of Cuba’s struggle for independence from Spain. This anti-Spanish campaign fanned the public sentiment and even helped to drive the United States to war with Spain (1898).

In 1903 William married Millicent Veronica Willson, a vaudeville performer in New York City. Between 1904 and 1915 the couple had five sons, the two youngest sons being twins. Hearst started a relationship with actress Marion Davies in 1915 that lasted until his death in 1951. His wife Millicent returned to New York in 1926, but the couple never legally divorced.

As a congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives (1903–07), Hearst sought the Democratic party’s presidential nomination without success in 1904. He was defeated as candidate for mayor of New York City in 1905 and 1909 and for governor of New York in 1906. Unsuccessful in his political ambitions within the Democratic party, he changed his views completely and became stridently conservative.

In 1919 Hearst started the construction of his impressive mansion—known as Hearst Castle—on a 240,000-acre (97,000-hectare) ranch at San Simeon, California. The residential complex was furnished with a huge collection of antiques and art objects that he had bought in Europe. In 1957, six years after his death, Hearst Castle was donated to the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

By 1925 Hearst owned newspapers and magazines all over the United States. He also published books and produced motion pictures featuring his mistress Marion Davies. In 1935 he owned 28 newspapers and 18 magazines, as well as several radio stations, movie companies and news services. But due to his extravagant lifestyle and the Great Depression of the 1930s his financial position was seriously affected. In 1937 he was forced to sell part of his art collection, and by 1940 he had lost personal control of the vast communications empire that he had built. He lived the last years of his life in virtual seclusion.


  1. David Nasaw, The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston (2000) Google books
  • Ben Procter, William Randolph Hearst: The Early Years, 1863-1910. Oxford University Press, New York (1998).

External link

NNDB entry for W. R. Hearst