Hearst, William Randolph (1863-1951)

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William Randolph Hearst was born into wealth in San Francisco on April 29, 1863. His father, George, was a gold- and copper-mining tycoon and a U.S. senator from California. William Randolph Hearst attended Harvard University, but was expelled because of pranks. On returning home, he was given the San Francisco Examiner by his father. It became a financial success under the new editor's flamboyant leadership, and in 1895, he bought the New York Journal.

Charges of journalistic sensationalism dogged Mr. Hearst all his life. His newspapers blatantly used their news columns to promote their chief's causes—including the U.S.' entry into the Spanish-American War.

At its peak, the highly centralized Hearst chain had at least one daily paper in most of the largest U.S. cities. They looked alike and all carried the same editorials, often written by or at the behest of Mr. Hearst. He introduced bold headlines, halftone newsprint photos and color comics, and he invested heavily in new technology and promotion. His worldwide publishing empire eventually included 32 major city papers, 13 magazines, radio and TV stations, movie and book companies, King Features Syndicate and Metrotone News.

Running as a Democrat, Mr. Hearst was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from New York in 1902 and unsuccessfully sought the party's nomination for president two years later. He also lost races for governor of New York state and mayor of New York.

An avaricious collector of objets d'art, Mr. Hearst built "castles" in which to house them, the grandest of which was at San Simeon on the California coast about 175 miles south of San Francisco. He lived there with his mistress, actress Marion Davies.

In his later years, Mr. Hearst adopted an archconservative stance that was reflected in his newspapers' editorials and often in their news columns as well. He became an outspoken foe of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal policies and an ardent anti-Communist.

In the late 1930s and into the '40s, his publishing empire shrank, and at one point he was near bankruptcy. Many of his newspapers were sold or shuttered, and his health failed. He died in Beverly Hills, Calif., in 1951 at the age of 88.


Born in San Francisco, April 29, 1863; expelled from Harvard University, 1885; given the San Francisco Examiner by his father, 1887; bought the New York Journal, 1895; elected as a Democrat from New York state to the U.S. House of Representatives, 1902; died in Beverly Hills, Calif., April 14, 1951.

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