William Randolph Hearst was a media titan of print and radio. He perfected the sensationalism of American reporting and journalism amassing an incredible empire spanning 12 cities, 18 newspapers, and 9 magazines. He was intelligent, flamboyant, controversial, and a smart businessman, but his overextension of the company and power led to him loose control due to the fallout of the Great Depression. However, the Hearst Corporation survived. His empire enabled him luxuries including an incredible art collection and a huge castle that he lived in, entertained in, and ran his empire from on the coast of California.
An only child, William was born to Phoebe Apperson Hearst a school teacher and self made millionaire George Hearst, who earned his fortune as prospector acquiring claims in gold and copper mines.
He spent his youth being raised at elite prep schools and personal tutors. He did attend Harvard briefly, but was expelled three years later in 1885 because he was sending chamber pots, porcelain toilets normally stowed under the bed for nighttime use, to faculty members with their pictures posted within them.
On March 4, 1887 he inherited, as a gift, from his father, who was a US Senator of California at the time, the San Francisco Examiner whom won it though a gambling debt, and the Hearst Corporation began. He was 23 at the time, and another media mogul, Rupurt Murdoch
following a similar path also inherited the Adelaide News from his father at age 21 in 1952.
On February 28, 1891, Hearst age 27, lost is Father George and entire fortune of $20 Million was left to his mother.
He acquired the New York Morning Journal and launched the Evening Journal in 1895 and 1896 respectively.
In 1903 he married Millicent Veronica Willson and five children; George Randolph Hearst, William Randolph Hearst Jr., John Randolph Hearst, and twins Randolph Apperson Hearst and David Whitmire Hearst.
From 1903 to 1907 he served two terms in Congress as a member of the United States House of Representatives.
He stood six foot three inches tall and his name is sometimes misspelled as William Randolph Hearst and he has no relation to the actor William Hurt.
In 1911, Hearst offered an incredible prize of $50,000 to the first person to fly in less than 30 days across America from New York to Los Angeles. But before we get to who did it, lets look back on another invention that changed the world. Wilbur and Orville Wright flew the world's first airplane on December 17, 1903. It wasn’t until almost a year later that a flight could last more than five minutes. On July 30, 1909 the US government purchased for $30,000 a Wright Brothers biplane, the first government owned airplane. Anyway, Calbraith Perry Rodgers was the first successful attempt to win the prize. He flew a Wright Bothers plane named after a grape soda, the Vin Fiz, and crashed 70 times, sustained 15 accidents with one resulting in a hospital stay for a month, and then completed the journey in 84 days. Another incredible prize of $10 Million dollars was launched in 1996 for the first sustainable civilian orbital flight. SpaceShipOne completed this milestone on June 21, 2004 by legendary airplane designer Burt Rutan and financer Paul Allen who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates. SpaceShipOne is being licensed to Marlon Brando
, Doris Day, Dennis Miller, Any Warhol, E. B. White, and James Dean.
In 1919 when he was 56 his mother died leaving him an inheritance of $7.5 Million and debts totaling $10 Million.
In 1919 Hearst contacted architect Julia Morgan to design a series of buildings on the hilltop of his 127 acre ranch in San Simeon, off the California Coast. Hearst contacted Morgan and said, “Miss Morgan, we are tired of camping out in the open at the ranch in San Simeon and I would like to build a little something.” The project took an army of craftsmen and laborers over 28 years to build and is composed of 165 rooms, 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways. The main house, or Casa Grande, began construction in 1922, but wasn’t ready for occupancy until 1927 with construction continuing on 130 rooms until Hearst left the castle due to health reasons in 1947. A lot of the art showcased in the home was stored in a 5-story warehouse in the Bronx until the house was ready for the art to be moved.
Many guests were entertained at the Hearst Castle and they have included Howard Hughes
, George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Buster Keaton, Cary Grant, Greta Garbo, Charlie Chaplin
, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, and Harpo Marx.
Hearst was the first to take control and actively use comics or funnies in newspapers. His last authorization of comics before his death was Beetle Bailey. In 1999 there are an average of 113 million readers who read the comics from the Sunday papers.
In 1923, on the property of San Simeon, Hearst created the largest private zoo with a heard of over 300 animals including elk, bison, deer, llamas sheep, zebras, and goats. He built large structures to house and feed many of the animals, but in 1937 when he was suffering financial difficulties the zoo was dismantles with the animals being sold to public zoos or being freed on the grounds of the property.
In 1924 over 7 Million people, one in four American families, read his newspapers and watched his syndicated features. Seventy-six years later, with the US population doubled, the average entire watching evening television audience totaled 7 Million people from ABC, NBC, and CBS.
In 1924 there was an event that may be true or rumor. While about a yacht owned by William Randolph Hearst, Charlie Chaplin
was intimately kissing Hearst’s mistress Marion Davies. Hearst saw this and shot at Chaplin but missed killed the guest of honor, a producer celebrating his forty-third birthday, Thomas Ince. In 2001 a film called the Cat’s Meow, starring Edward Herrmann as Hearst, was created based on the rumors and events occurring on the boat.
In 1928 the Hearst Corporation reached its maximum revenue and circulation of readers and listeners totaling over 20 million people, but then the empire began to collapse as the Great Depression took hold and led to Hearst’s loss of control of the Hearst Corporation.
Hearst’s companion Marion Davies liquidated over $1 Million of her assets to help him from not declaring bankruptcy of the Hearst Corporation. She later died in 1961 from Cancer and President Herbert Hoover attended her funeral. Hoover later went onto live in Waldorf-Astoria Hotel where Thomas Edison
’s son lived and Nikola Tesla
Even though Hearst lost control of his company, he was able to keep his 127-acre ranch and Castle in San Simeon, in addition to the one-million acre cattle ranch in Chihuahua, Mexico called Babicora, a 67,000 acre estate on the McCloud River in California, and St. Donat's Castle in Wales, England.
Prior to 1941 Hearst spent a lot of his money and remaining media influence to stop a film directed by Orson Welles portraying William Randolph Hearst as a brutal newspaper magnate in Citizen Kane. With all his efforts to protect his reputation he couldn’t stop the film from being released. Upon release in 1941 the film was only shown at a few venues, but years later it become very famous and is credited as being one of the greatest movies of the nineteenth century.
In 1943 Ayn Rand wrote the Fountainhead where one of the main characters was Gail Wynand whom was influenced and mirrored in many ways to William Randolph Hearst. The works and person of Frank Lloyd Wright
also influenced the book where the theme of architecture flowed throughout the book. In 1949 the Fountainhead was made into a movie where Raymond Hart Massey played Gail Wynand and Gary Cooper played Howard Roark, the Architect.
William Randolph Hearst shares his birthday with Michelle Pfeiffer, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sir Thomas Beecham, Jerry Seinfeld, Hirohito, Duke Ellington, and Dale Earnhardt.
Hearst founded two philanthropic foundations, one in 1945 and another in 1948 to provide opportunities for institutions and underrepresented people.
William Randolph Hearst III is the grandchild of William Randolph Hearst and was worth 2.1 Billion in 2006 and was ranked # 143 out of the entire US population. William the III also is one of the family members that controls the Hearst Corporation and is a partner of Kleiner Perkins.
August 14, 1951: Claiming poorer health in 1947 he moved to the home of his companion for more than 30 years, Marion Davies, in Beverly Hills, California. He continued to work the day-to-day operations of the Hearst Corporation until in 1951 he died in his sleep. Marion Davies was not allowed to attend the funeral as he was laid to rest in the family crypt at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma, California.
His holdings in the Hearst Empire were left to professional managers with the Hearst family given 13 seats on the board of trustees. The trust for seats on the board will expire when the last Hearst grandchild dies. The Hearst Corporation has approximately $7 Billion in revenues and owns and manages radio stations, 16 magazines (Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping), 12 newspapers, 27 television stations, and stakes in cable channels (EXPN, Lifetime, A&E) and has real estate holdings in California, New, York and San Francisco.
In 1957 the Hearst Castle was donated to the State of California as a historic house museum and is one of the largest of over 5,000 such homes in the US.