image

SYNOPSIS

William Randolph Hearst was a man of mythical proportions and staggering contradictions. And he was a fascinating character, so much so that he appears in various fictional works, from John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath" and F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Last Tycoon" to Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane," as if his life was not sufficiently bizarre in its own right. Pascal must have had WR in mind when he said: "What a chimera then is man! What a novelty! What a monster, what a chaos, what a contradiction, what a prodigy!" The only son of George Hearst, an illiterate, self-made millionaire who had a nose for ore and was a principal in the largest mining company in the world—an enterprise with more than 95 mines including some in the Comstock Lode and other well known ones such as Anaconda and Homestake--WR was born with a platinum spoon in his mouth. His parents doted on their only child. His mother, Phoebe, was well-educated and refined, his wealthy father politically well-connected, so WR gained all the advantages and encountered few of the hurdles most children face growing up. [Includes timeline, bibliography and video links].

EXCERPT

William Randolph Hearst was a man of mythical proportions and staggering contradictions. And he was a fascinating character, so much so that he appears in various fictional works, from John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath" and F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Last Tycoon" to Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane," as if his life was not sufficiently bizarre in its own right. Pascal must have had Hearst in mind when he said: "What a chimera then is man! What a novelty! What a monster, what a chaos, what a contradiction, what a prodigy!"

The only son of George Hearst, an illiterate, self-made millionaire who had a nose for ore and was a principal in the largest mining concern in the world—an enterprise with more than 95 mines including some in the Comstock Lode and other famous ones such as Ontario, Anaconda and Homestake--W. R. Hearst was born with a platinum spoon in his mouth. Time magazine said, "No publisher in history has had such an inexhaustible treasure to draw from."

His parents doted on their only child. Phoebe Hearst was well-educated and refined, his wealthy father politically well-connected, so W. R. gained all the advantages and encountered few of the hurdles most children face growing up.

He attended St. Paul's School in Concord, N.H., where he roomed with Will Tevis, California mogul Lloyd Tevis's son (Lloyd was one of George Hearst's two major partners, the other being James Ben Ali Haggin). Then it was off to Harvard, with an allowance of $150 a month, where Hearst’s reputation as a prankster and disinterested student—not to mention poor grades—led to his premature departure from the university, but only after he gained some basic newspaper experience on the Harvard Lampoon. New York beckoned and Hearst went to work for Joseph Pulitzer's New York World.

George Hearst wanted his son to become involved in his mining operations but W. R. rejected the notion. He had other plans and was determined to become a publisher. In 1880 George had acquired the San Francisco Examiner, a Democratic Party rag that had fallen on hard times, to support his campaign for the California governorship, a stepping stone to the U.S. Senate. He spoke at California's Democratic Convention. With tongue-in-cheek he told the delegates: "My opponents say that I can't spell. They say I spell bird, b-u-r-d. If b-u-r-d doesn't spell bird, what in hell does it spell?" He lost the hard-fought campaign to Gen. George Stoneman. If he resented the loss, he kept it to himself and supported Gen. Stoneman's election.