William Randolph Hearst

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When Hearst ran for office he did so on the left wing Municipal Ownership ticket, with a socialist running mate.

William Randolph Hearst (April 29, 1863 – August 14, 1951) was an American newspaper publisher and politician, who was against America joining World War I. His newspapers ran stories that were sensationalized and entertaining, but which sometimes twisted the truth.

The movie, Citizen Kane (1941), considered by many to be the greatest ever, was a criticism of William Randolph Hearst.

Early life

Hearst was born In San Francisco on April 29, 1863, the son of United States Senator George Hearst, and Phoebe (Apperson) Hearst. His father had great intellectual powers and was a conspicuous figure in the early history of the West. His mother is a noted philanthropist and uplifter, having given vast sums to aid in the education of the poor. She has established numerous kindergartens and libraries in various parts of the West and at the present time occupies a place on the Board of Regents of the University of California, to which she gave a building costing approximately four million dollars.[1] He was educated in the San Francisco public schools and at Harvard University. Upon his return to San Francisco after completion of his college career, Mr. Hearst was placed in control of the San Francisco "Examiner"[2] by his father, who had himself up to that time (1886) conducted the paper as an organ for the people. This inherited policy Mr. Hearst has never changed; he has made it the guiding principle of all his subsequent newspaper enterprises.

Publishing career

Cartoonist W.A. Rogers sees the political uses of the Wizard of Oz: he depicts Hearst as a mud-throwing Scarecrow stuck in his own Ooze in this 1906 cartoon in Harper's Weekly magazine.

After conducting the San Francisco "Examiner" for nine years with a large degree of success, adding to its prestige as a journal and its value as a property, Mr. Hearst's progressive spirit sought larger fields. Accordingly, he went to New York, in 1895, and purchased the old New York "Journal."[1] He subsequently bought the New York "Advertiser" to secure a news franchise, and consolidating the two, issuing morning and afternoon editions. Shortly after, he founded the New York American

The arrival of Mr. Hearst into New York not only changed the journalistic methods of the metropolis, but was the beginning of a new era in newspaper operation as a whole. Surrounding himself with the best talent to be procured, Mr. Hearst projected his ideas and his personality into the field in such a manner that within a short time he was recognized as the embodiment of a new thought in journalism. His cardinal principles in the conduct of his papers have been the protection of the people, the correction of government evils, city, state and national, and the enactment of legislation intended for the betterment of the people as a whole.[1]

In following out this policy, Mr. Hearst has been a potential influence in the establishment of progressive reforms, which have purified politics and raised the general moral plane of life in various communities. After fighting strenuously for five years in New York, with the "Journal" as a militant power for right, Mr. Hearst invaded Chicago in 1900, by establishing the Chicago "American," an afternoon paper. Two years later the Chicago "Examiner," a morning issue, was founded, and that same year the morning edition of the New York "Journal" became known as "The New York American." In 1903 he established the Los Angeles "Examiner," and in 1904 the "American" in Boston. He also owns the "Morgen Journal" (New York), the largest and most influential German daily in the United States, and several other weekly and monthly publications.

His papers In these three cities appealed to the masses, and had very large circulation. They are "papers that do things." and are proud of being "yellow."[3]

All of Mr. Hearst's newspapers are maintained along the same general lines as those upon which he conducted his first publication. In their respective fields they are relentless in their efforts for the eradication of corruption in politics, corporation oppression and other evils of local or national extent.

One of his large and most important institutions is the International News Service, originally organized for gathering and distributing news, covering the especially big events of the world for his own publications. It was at the time one of the largest news agencies in the world and supplied, in addition to his own, hundreds of other large newspapers. It had a most important influence on the newspaper situation of the world.[1]

Image in the media

Orson Welles' movie, Citizen Kane, is a fictional drama about a character with an unmistakable resemblance to Hearst. It is viciously satirical, and cruel to both Hearst and to his long-time mistress, Marion Davies. Many critics have named it as the best movie of all time, and it was voted #1 on the American Film Institute's list of the hundred best movies ever made.[4]

Marion Davies

Hearst's infidelity to Millicent and relationship with Marion Davies was subject to constant scandal.[5] Millicent and Hearst never officially divorced, but they became estranged and she maintained a separate residence in New York City.[6]

Government by Newspapers

As a publishing philosophy, Hearst practiced what he called "government by newspapers".[7][8][9][10][11]

Historian David Nasaw wrote[12] that Hearst was "the first publisher to understand that the communications media were potentially more powerful than the parties and their politicians". However, Hearst did not develop his philosophy of "government by newspapers" on his own.

Meeting with William Thomas Stead

A year before the Spanish–American War,[13] William Thomas Stead wrote of his crossing the Atlantic to meet with Mr. Hearst. Stead taught Hearst about Government by Journalism, and praised him for his role in creating the Spanish–American War by saying "He had found his soul".[14][15]

Spanish American War

In 1898, Hearst's paper ran sensational stories about atrocities he said the Spanish were committing in Cuba. His stories (and those of Joseph Pulitzer's New York World) played a role in swaying public opinion in favor of what was to become the Spanish-American War. A famous story, but one which is probably not true, says that Hearst sent artist Frederick Remington to Cuba and wired him to send back pictures of the war. Remington supposedly wired back, "There is no war." Hearst replied, "You furnish the pictures, I'll provide the war."

Involvement in politics

Born a Democrat,[1] Hearst attempted to enter politics numerous times, beginning his political career[3] in 1901 as a Democratic candidate for Congress from the Eleventh District of New York. In 1902, he was victorious at winning a seat to the US congress to the Fifty-eighth congress. Once elected, he sought labor support, and became an advocate of Municipal Socialism.[3] From 1903-1907 he was a Democrat congressman from New York City.[16]

After being returned to the House of Representatives in 1904, he was elected President of the National League of Democratic Clubs,[2] and in 1905 Hearst founded an independent party named the Municipal Ownership League for his run for mayor of New York City. His running mates were John Ford for controller,[17] who was a Democrat senator from New York; and James Graham Phelps Stokes for President of the Board of Aldermen,[18] who was a millionaire socialist writer and a founding member of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society.

At times his ideas were not been in harmony with those of other leaders, and on such occasions he voiced his sentiments editorially and in public speeches. It was such a situation that led to the formation by Mr. Hearst during his unsuccessful candidacy for the mayoralty of New York City, in February, 1906, of the Independence League. The purpose of this movement, as avowed by delegates in convention at Albany, N. Y, was to overthrow boss rule and corporation control of the Government. Its necessity was due to the lack of a direct nominations law, which prevented progressive Democrats and Republicans from exercising any voice in the selection of candidates or writing of platforms. The cardinal principles of the Independence League, as announced in its national platform, were direct nominations, direct election of Senators, income tax, initiative, referendum and recall, postal savings banks, parcels post, inland waterways development, conservation of natural resources, physical valuation of railroads, no injunctions without notice and hearing, and all contempt of court cases to be tried by a jury; opposition to child labor and the manufacture and sale of prison-made goods; revision of the tariff; all money to be issued by the Government, and "imprisonment of individuals criminally responsible for trusts, instead of merely fining the stockholders."[1] Later in 1906, he stood unsuccessfully for the Governorship of New York State, on the Independence ticket.

In 1908 he formed a new party, and his revelations as to the relations of the Trusts with the two political parties created a great sensation. In 1909, under the banner of the Civic Alliance, he made a second unsuccessful run for the mayoralty of New York City.

During Hearst's tenure in the Fifty-eighth and Fifty-ninth Congresses, from the Eleventh District in New York, he introduced bills increasing the powers of the Interstate Commerce Commission, and creating the Interstate Commerce Court, the principle of both of which bills has since been enacted into law; a bill to establish the Parcels Post; a bill for the eight-hour day, and the payment of the prevailing rate of wages by all Federal contractors and sub-contractors; a bill to promote the construction of a national system of good roads; a bill to increase the salaries of the Justices of the Supreme Court; a bill to enlarge the domestic market for farm products and increase the industrial uses of denatured alcohol; a bill for the incorporation and regulation of all corporations engaged in Interstate business under a national incorporation law, adequately protecting the public against watered stocks and bonds; a bill to enable the United States to acquire, maintain and operate electric telegraphs, paying therefor by the sale of bonds redeemable out of net earnings; a bill to authorize the acquisition by the United States of the entire capital stock and property of the Panama Railroad Company, and to provide for the maintenance, operation and development by the' Government of the railroad and steamship properties and lines so acquired; a bill constituting a rigid and adequate Federal Corrupt Practices Act; a bill making railroad rebating a criminal offense; and a bill amending the Sherman Anti-Trust Law, strengthening it as a criminal statute and making it apply to combinations and restraints of trade in the monopoly of products of labor.[1]

Trust Busting

Mr. Hearst's battles in the interests of the people have been numerous and varied, but almost universally successful, and have been of national importance in virtually every instance. Following are some of the notable things he did:

  • He frustrated the fuel gas franchise grab in New York, in 1896, worth $50,000,000 to its promoters.
  • He blocked the Ice Trust's plan to raise its price and started suits to dissolve the combine, in 1900, and forced the price down from 60 to 30 cents a hundred in three months. He fought successfully in Legislature against "dollar gas," and compelled an eighty-cent gas rate to be put in effect; similar, but shorter, gas fights were inaugurated by him bringing about reductions in Boston and Chicago. He brought about the conviction of the president and the payment of depositors in the wrecked Seventh National Bank of New York. He caused the electrization of the New York Central Railroad following a tunnel disaster costing forty lives. At the height of the first anthracite coal strike he produced evidence showing combination between nine Pennsylvania railroads and fought the case with such vigor that the United States Government, under President Taft, brought and won an Injunction suit against railroads holding stock of the Temple Iron Company, through which the combination was carried on, the case finally reaching the United States Supreme Court. The effect of this publicity ultimately led to rate reductions by various railroads and the radical amendment of the Interstate Commerce law. He started rebating suits against the New York Central, the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western and allied roads for rebating, which resulted in the roads' paying large fines to the Government.
  • Mr. Hearst was thanked by Attorney General Moody for his activity in the case against the Sugar Trust for rebating, which resulted in the combine's paying fines aggregating $250,000 and the ultimate exposure of its workings, which caused the corporation to refund millions of dollars to the Government in unpaid duties.
  • He conducted a fight for twenty-five years which resulted in San Francisco's getting a municipal water supply and the ownership of street railways. He also produced the first evidence and led in the campaign against the Ruef-Schmitz graft ring in San Francisco, which sent Ruef to prison and freed the city from one of the most obnoxious systems of corruption in the history of the United States. He also exposed the "120 per cent Miller" syndicate swindle. He caused the Southern Pacific and other railroads to rebuild their roads so as to safeguard human life and directed scores of other fights in the various cities where his papers are published which saved the people millions of dollars and lightened their burdens in divers ways.[1]

Personal life

On April 28, 1903, he married Miss Millicent V. Willson in New York City. To them have been born three children, George, William Randolph, Jr., and John Randolph Hearst.[1]


William Randolph Hearst

Mr. Hearst, in time of disaster in any part of the world, was one of the leaders in the work of aiding the poor and alleviating suffering. In 1906, when San Francisco was stricken by earthquake and destroyed by fire, he sent the first relief train into the city, following this with several others, and, altogether, raised $250,000 for the relief of the sufferers.

When news of the catastrophe was heard he immediately instructed all of his papers to spare no expense and to leave no stone unturned in an endeavor to secure all supplies in their respective cities and ship at once to San Francisco. His instructions were to hire special trains or to attach cars to any available train in order to reach the stricken city at the earliest possible moment. From Los Angeles he sent one special passenger train containing provisions, doctors, nurses and medical supplies, and later sent a special from Chicago containing one hundred doctors and all available medical supplies. The steamer Roanoke sailed from Los Angeles, containing twenty-two carloads of provisions, four of which were contributed by Mr. Hearst. Trains, under his lease and orders, were made up in Chicago, New York and Boston, each containing numerous cars, filled by him with provisions and clothing. Almost every day one or more cars from the various headquarters established by Mr. Hearst throughout the country were sent forth containing supplies contributed by him. This was kept up day after day during the entire period of need.

Five years previously, when Galveston was almost swept out of existence by flood, Mr. Hearst performed similar services, sending one relief train from Chicago and one from New York, which rushed provisions, doctors and nurses to the scene of trouble. He also raised and sent $50,000 cash.

At other times he contributed freely to the relief of starving thousands during famine periods in India and Cuba and to disaster victims in other parts of the world. To the earthquake sufferers in Italy he sent $35,000, composed of his own and other contributions made through the efforts of his publications.

By a vigorous editorial campaign and personal effort, Mr. Hearst was instrumental in securing reforms in the cause of humanity in the Congo district, where the natives had been the objects of cruelty and oppression unequaled in any other country on the globe.[1]

Interest in Aviation

Mr. Hearst, who was particularly enthusiastic of the newer forms of locomotion at the time, had his first experience of flight in January, 1909, at Los Angeles, when Louis Paulhan, the famous French aviator, took him for an air trip on his Farman biplane.[2][19]


  • Truths about the Trusts, (1916)
  • It is time to recognize the present stable government of Mexico, (1922)

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Press Reference Library, William Randolph Hearst
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Aircraft, Volume 1, 1910
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Who's Who in the World, 1912
  4. AFI's 100 Greatest American Films of All Time
  5. Hearst and Davies: The Gayest Social Scene, or, Where We Had The Most Fun
  6. Millicent Hearst
  7. Sterling, Christopher (2009). Encyclopedia of Journalism. SAGE Publications, 2252. ISBN 978-0761929574. 
  8. Scharnhorst, Gary (2014). Julian Hawthorne: The Life of a Prodigal Son. University of Illinois Press, 144. ISBN 978-0252038341. 
  9. Lamb, Brian (2001). Booknotes: Stories from American History. PublicAffairs, 159. ISBN 978-0142002490. 
  10. Goldsmith, Bonnie (2010). William Randolph Hearst: Newspaper Magnate. ABDO, 45. ISBN 978-1604537635. 
  11. Procter, Ben (2007). William Randolph Hearst: The Later Years, 1911-1951. Oxford University Press, Chapter 1: Government by Newspaper. ISBN 0195325346. 
  12. BOOKS OF THE TIMES; Hearst, Man and Mogul: Going Beyond the Myths, The New York Times
  13. Stead, William T. "A Character Sketch of William Randolph Hearst, by William Thomas Stead", Review of Reviews, December 1908. Retrieved on 5 October 2014. 
  14. W. Randolf Hearst. Attackingthedevil.co.uk (30 December 2010). Retrieved on 5 October 2014. “He began the battle against the Trusts; he made the Spanish–American war. For weal or for woe Mr. Hearst had found his soul; for weal or for woe he had discovered his chart and engaged his pilot, and from that day to this he has steered a straight course, with no more tackings than were necessary to avoid the fury of the storm. Some years afterwards I met Mr. Hearst in Paris. He recalled our first conversation, and said, "I never had a talk with anyone which made so deep a dint in life.”
  15. Eckley, Grace (2007). Maiden Tribute. Xlibris Corporation, Chapter 11. ISBN 978-1-4257-2708-6. 
  16. (1913) United States Congressional Serial Set. U.S. Government Printing Office, Chapter 11. 
  17. HEARST CONVENTION THE BIGGEST OF ALL; Nominee Says He Has No Misgivings About Winning Now. GOT A 14-MINUTE OVATION " Boos" for a Jerome Supporter -- Ford and Stokes Nominated to Fill Out the Ticket. HEARST CONVENTION THE BIGGEST OF ALL. New York Times (October 13, 1905).
  18. A FULL HEARST TICKET; To be Put Up To-night -- 100,000 Votes Sure, Says Ihmsen.. New York Times (October 14, 1905).
  19. Hearst an Aviator, Editor and Publisher, Volume 9, 1910