William Randolph Hearst (United States, 1863-1951)



Figure 1.--This is William Randolph Hearst with his wife, Millicent Willson. They maried in 1903. The portrait here withbtheir first son, George, was probably taken about 1904.

William Randolph Hearst was the only child of George Hearst, a self-made multimillionaire. His father made his money principally in the Western staples of mining and ranching. Wiiliam's mother was Phoebe Apperson Hearst. His father who had no interest in journalism accepted the San Francisco Examiner to satisfy a gambling debt (1887). It was a snall part of the Hurst family holdings. At age 23 William took over operation of the paper which his father had no interest in managing (1887). William was impressed by New York newspaper tycoon Joseph Pulitzer. Using Pulitzer as a model. He turned the The Examiner into the most important Pacific Coast newspaper and the foundation for the greatest media empire in American history. The paper became the same combination of reformist, investigative reporting and lurid sensationalism that Pulitzer pioneered. Pulitzer and Hearst became known for what was labeled "yellow journalis". Hearst married Millicent Willson in New York City (1903). They had five sons (George, William Randolph Jr., John and twins Randolph and David). He is noted for San Simeon and the art he collected there. He was a fervant Isolationist and used his papers to fight Presidenr Roosevelt's efforts to resist NAZI aggression in Europe.

Family

William Randolph Hearst was the only child of George Hearst (1820-91), a self-made multimillionaire. His father made his money principally in the Western staples of mining and ranching. He was elected to the Senate (1886-91). Wiiliam's mother was Phoebe Apperson Hearst (1842-1919). She was a former school-teacher with refined tastes and manners. She was 20 years younger than her husband, but such marriages were more common at the time than is he case today. She became noted for her philanthropic works, especially donations to the University of California.

Childhood

William was spoiled as a child as might be imagined geowing up as the only child in a rich family. His mother in particular spoiled him.

Education

William as ayounger boy was raised and educated by tutors. He was sent bacck East to elite prep schools. He entered Harvard College, but was expelled (1885).

The San Franciso Examiner

His father who had no interest in journalism accepted the San Francisco Examiner to satisfy a gambling debt (1887). It was a snall part of the Hearst family holdings. At age 23 William who had nothing to do after being expelled from Harvad, asked his father if he could run the paper. He thus took over operation of the paper which his father had no interest in managing (1887). William was impressed by New York newspaper tycoon Joseph Pulitzer. Using Pulitzer as a model. He turned the The Examiner into the most important Pacific Coast newspaper and the foundation for the greatest media empire in American history. He began by grandly styling the paper as "The Monarch of the Dailies" on its new masthead.

Yellow Journalism

The paper became the same combination of reformist, investigative reporting and lurid sensationalism that Pulitzer pioneered. Pulitzer and Hearst became known for what was labeled "yellow journalis". He sensationalized journalism by giving attention to lurd stories attacting public attention. He indulged what appears to have been a personal appetite for sensationalistic. It is also true that the attention-getting stories helped boost circulation and turn the moribund newspaper into a financial success. His papers were noted for banner headlines and lavish illustrations. At the turn of the 20th century it became possible to include actual photographic images in newspapers. Hurst is often accused of instigating the Spanish-American War (1898) to promoye newspaper sales. His newspapers certainly ran lurid stories about Spanish brutality in Cuba. He even advocated political assassination in an editorial just months before President McKinley was actually shot (1901). Y\'Yellow Journalism was a term coined to describe the practices of Joseph Pulitzer. Hearst adited many of Pulitzer's tactics and the two today are the two leading American journlists most identiffied with the practice.

Spanish American War (1898-99)


Family

Hearst married Millicent Willson in New York City (1903). They had five sons (George, William Randolph Jr., John and twins Randolph and David). After his political ambitions were frustrated, Hearst decided to live openly with Davies At San Simeon in California. He also purchsed a castle Wales. His wife and children continued to live in New York. Hearst continued to pursue charitable acts in NewYorj, founding the Free Milk Fund for poor children (1921). Hearst and his wide separated (1926).

Hearst Media Empire

Hearst turned the Examiner into a money making operation. He gradually acquired more papers. When his father died, he concvinced his mother to liquidated the family mining assets to fund the purchase of the ailing New York Morning Journal (1895). This gave his entry into the important New York market. (The family retained its forest products and petroleum interess.) He founded the Evening Journal (1896). Evetually the Heatsy media empire included the Chicago Examiner, Boston American, Cosmopolitan, and Harper's Bazaar. It also included included media services providing features and photographs. At the peak he owned 28 major newspapers, 18 magazines, several radio stations, as well as movie companies. As he expanded his media holdings, he developed a reputation for employing some of the best journalists in America and payong them well. Some of his most prominant journalists were mbrose Bierce, Stephen Crane, Mark Twain, Richard Harding Davis, and Jack London. The Depression severely weakebned his media empire. Hearst's increasingly reactionary views upset the left-wing in America by being a NAZI sympethizer (1930s) and a staunch anti-Communist (1940s).

Racism

It is probably accurate to label Hearst a racist. In fairness to Hearst, however, this was probably an accurate description of most White Americans at the time, although to varying degrees. Hearst's ire was especially directed at Mexicans. This attitude toward Mexicans may have been inspired by his involvement in the Mexican Revolution. After Francisco Madro helped deposed Presient Diaz, General Pascual Orozco who had been one of Madero's chief lieutenants, houghthe he was entitled to be governor of Chihuahua. When he did not get the expected appointment, Oroozco launched a rebellion (March 1912). Orozco received financial assistance from the Chihuahua cattle barons who feared that Madero would break up the large haciendas. American publisher William Randolph Hearst who also had important holdings also aided Orozco. The ensuing loss of of 0.8 million acres of prime timberland to the Mexican Revolution and Pancho Villa must have affected his attitudes toward Mexicans. Hearst used his media empire to smear minorities. The Hearst papers depicted Mexicans as lazy, degenerate, and violent. Other smears included marijuana smokers and job stealers.

Political Career

Hearst aspired for a political career and he had the money and media clout to pursue his ambition. He ran for Congress as a progressive Democrat. He won a house seat twice (1903-07). He then tried to become New York City mayor, losing twwice (1905 and 09). He was also defeated by Republican Charles Evans Hughes in the race for govenor of New York (1906).

World War I (1914-18)

Hearst took a very different aditude toward war when World War I broke out in Europe (1914). He strongly opposed U.S. entry. His position seems largely based on his anti-Britisj attidudes. After the War he crusaded against President Wilson's proposed League of Nations and American membership in the League.

Marion Davies (1897- )

Marion Davies (Marion Cecilea Douras) was minor Hollywood starlet. She is best remembered today for her association with Hearst. Her career was certainly aided by Hearst. Hearst spent considerable effort and a small fortune promoting Davies' film career. She was not without takent, but she was not a star. She begame the unofficial hostess at San Simeon. They hosted very elaborate formal parties. They especially liked costume parties. Guests included the iluminaries of Hollywood such as Carole Lombard, mary Pickford, Sonja Henie, Dolores Del Rio, and many more. Other iluminaries included major American figures such as Mayor of New York City and Charles Lindbergh. Orson Well's thin;y veiled depiction of Davies seems to be what most angered Hearst about "Citizen Caine". She had terrible helath problems, including conracting polio in the 1940s. She died from cancer of the jaw. Their assiciation has to be one of America's great love stories.

San Simeon (1920s-30s)

Hearst is noted for San Simeon and the art treasures he collected there. He built a castle on a 240,000 acre ranch at San Simeon, California during the 1920s. The very elaborate mansion became known as the Hearst's Castle. At San Simeon, It became a gathering point for the stars of Hollywood. Today it is an important California landmark.

The Depression (1930s)

The Hearst media empire was at its greasest extent in terms of circuklation and outlets in 1928, the year before the Depression. It is questionable jus how profitable it was, if profitable at all. He had the advantage of income from his mining, ranching, and forest properties. The expansion made him financially vulnerable. The ppers and magazines were dependant no only on subscriptions, but on adverising. And with the Stock Market Crash (1929) Depression, cash-strapped business cut back on advertising. This was the life-blood of American newspapers. The Great Depression and lavish spending on art weakened his media empire and finances. At one point, his financial situation was so severe that Marion Davies had to pawn some of her jewels to obrain cash to keep him from bankruptsy. The lasting impact of the Depression and has advancing age resulted in his losing personal control over the media empire he had built (1940).

The New Deal

Hearst had begun as a moderate (if sensational) journalist. This scion of wealth had appointed himself as the tribune of the common man. He and his papers supported the reformist movemt of the Progressive era. Hearst had a rather complicated relationship with President Roosevelt. He helped then Gocenor Roosevelt win the 1932 Democratic presidential nomination. Even then he had his doubts. His politics were becoming increasingly reactionary. He financed a film, "Gabriel Over the White House" (1933) which srarred Walter Huston who played a presidential messiah. In the movie, President 'Judd' Hammond exercised near dictatorial powers, ordering summary executions of gangsters. This showed a move toward Fascism, not the rule of law of a democracy. The New Deal quickly moved away from the budget-balacing campaign retoric, President Roosevelts increased taxes, budget deficits, and big-government solutions soured his view of the new president. Roosevelt for his part recognizing the importance of the Hearst newspapers tried to court him with White House invitations. Hearst eventually broke openly with Roosevelt and the New Deal. The critisisn of Roosevelt and the New Deal in his papers bo doubt appealed to his advertisers, but not with the "common man" who purchased them. In typical Roosevelt fashion, while attempting to woo Hearst, the President complained in private of Hearst's power and arranged to have his income taxes investigated.

Isolationism

Hearst came to oppose foreign influences and anything he saw as internatonalism. He was a fervant Isolationist and used his papers to fight Presidenr Roosevelt's efforts to resist NAZI totalitarianism in Europe. Isolationism in America was a powerful movement that tied President Roosevelt's hands for years, even after the NAZIs launched the War. It was also a movement with many roots and branches. The primary strength was pacifism, humanitarianism, and nativism. There were many other elements, including racism, anti-Semitism, anti-British sentiment, Catholic anti-Communism beliefs, and even Fascist sympathies. Hearst's isolationism verged on pro-NAZI sentiment. Here Hearst's often flagarant racism must have cloded his judgement about the NAZIs. He certainly took a vey different attitude toward the Japanese aggression in China. He had been a reformer during the progressive era. The American left during the 1930s began to see him and his media empire as reactionary. His opposition to American entry in the war in Europe was interesting giving the fact that he played sych a prominant role in promoting the war against Spain. There certainly is ample evidence that Fascism itself appealed to him. Hearst allowed his papers to publish paid-for columns by both Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Hearst denied he had Fascist sympathies, insisting that he was only an anti-Communist. He and Marion Davies made a grand continent tour and attended the Nuremberg rally (1934). He later completed a newsreel deal with Goebbels during the trip. Once Hitler launched the Wae (939), the Hearst papers pursued a string anti-interventionist editorial position. They criticized Presidentident Roosevelt's efforts to aid Britain.

Anti-Communism

Hearst waivered back and forth on his attitude toward President Roosevelt. One position he nevered waivered on was Comminism. He launched an anti-Commuist crusade (1934). Some might call it a "witch hunt". But witches did not exist and Communists did in the New Deal. Some Americans turned to Communism during the Depression. At the time the terrible crimes of Stalin were not widely known. Hearst's anti-Communism crusade would continue for the next 20 years of his life. He tarred New Deal supporters unjustly as reds, and finally labeled the Presidentbhimself as a Communist. Liberals and leftists retaliated by calling Hearst a Fscist and reactionary. There was even a boycott of Hearst newspapers. Surely Orson Well's decesion to make "Citizen Cane" was in part motivated by Hearst's reactionary politics.

Citizen Kane (1941)

Orson Well's classic, "Citizen Kane", is the story of Charles Foster Kane. Te screenwriter was Herman J. Mankiewicz who knew Hearst, The film begins with a long shot of Xanadu which is described as "the private estate of one of the world's richest men". Of course no one in America could have failed to have immediately made the connecion with San Simenon and William Randolph Hurst. Welles depicted, with considerable artistic licenese, in what is often cited as the greatest American movie--"Citizen Kane". The whole movie is a film classic. Wells made the film as a thinly veiled biography. In many ways, however, the film was autobiographical. Herst, for example, never lost his mother at an early age, but Wells did. After Wells completed his film, the buzz began to grow in Hollywood about a brillint new film. Any unbiased movie goer seeing the film could not help but be impressed with it. A preview screening impressed everyone present, with one exception--Hedda Hopper. She was the leading gossip columnist of the day. She was also a friend of Hearst and a frequest guest at San Simeon. She was shocked by the film and called it "a vicious and irresponsible attack on a great man." She immediately contacted Hearst. Iyt was the first he had heard of what Wells had created. Hearst was personally outraged. The film ws certainly a brutal depiction of the newspaper magnate, but Hearst may have been most outraged with the thinly veiled depiction of his lover, Marion Davies. What followed was the greatest struggle over a movie in American film history. The great, but declining newspaper magnate set out to destroy the upstart Wells and his film. In the end both men's reputation was tarnished. Herat attempted to prevent the release of the film and to actually destoy it, obtain and burn the actual prints. Hearst unlike conservatives today had numerous riends in Hollywood. Several Hollywood executives, led by Louis B. Mayer, supported Hearst and attempted to buy the film so they could destroy it. Other Hearst defenders intimidated exhibitors to prevet showing of the film. Threats of blackmail, newspaper smears, and FBI investigations followed.

Sources

Nasaw, David. The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst

Davies, Marion. The Times We Had: Life With William Randolph Hearst.





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Created: 3:29 AM 1/24/2009
Last edited: 3:29 AM 1/24/2009