- NAME: William Randolph Hearst
- OCCUPATION: Business Leader, Publisher
- BIRTH DATE: April 29, 1863
- DEATH DATE: August 14, 1951
- EDUCATION: Harvard College, St. Paul's School
- PLACE OF BIRTH: San Francisco, California
- PLACE OF DEATH: Beverly Hills, California
- Nickname: "The Chief"
- Full Name: William Randolph Hearst
- AKA: William R. Hearst
- AKA: William Hearst
Best Known For
William Randolph Hearst is best known for publishing the largest chain of American newspapers in the late 19th century, and particularly for sensational "yellow journalism."
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In 1900, William Randolph Hearst followed his father's example and entered politics. Having established newspapers in several more cities, including Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles, he began his quest for the U.S. presidency, spending $2 million in the process. The journey didn't last long. Hearst did win election to the House of Representatives in 1902 and 1904. However,
maintaining his media empire while also running for mayor of New York City and governor of New York left him little time to actually serve in Congress. Angered colleagues and voters retaliated and he lost both New York races, ending his political career.
On April 27, 1903, William Randolph Hearst married 21-year-old Millicent Willson, a showgirl, in New York City. It is believed the marriage was as much a political arrangement as it was an attraction to glamour for Hearst. Millicent’s mother reputedly ran a Tammany Hall–connected brothel in the city, and Hearst undoubtedly saw the advantage of being well-connected to the Democratic center of power in New York. Millicent bore Hearst five sons, all of whom followed their father into the media business.
After his flameout in politics, William Randolph Hearst returned full-time to his publishing business. In 1917, Hearst’s roving eye fell upon Ziegfeld Follies showgirl Marion Davies, and by 1919 he was openly living with her in California. That same year, Hearst’s mother, Phoebe, died, leaving him the family’s fortune, which included a 168,000-acre ranch in San Simeon, California. Over the next several decades, Hearst spent millions of dollars expanding the property, building a Baroque-style castle, filling it with European artwork, and surrounding it with exotic animals and plants.
By the 1920s, one in every four Americans read a Hearst newspaper. William Randolph Hearst’s media empire had grown to include 20 daily and 11 Sunday papers in 13 cities. He controlled the King Features syndicate and the International News Service, as well as six magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and Harper's Bazaar. He also ventured into motion pictures with a newsreel and a film company. He and his empire were at their zenith.
The stock market crash and subsequent economic depression hit the Hearst Corporation hard, especially the newspapers, which were not completely self-sustaining. William Randolph Hearst had to shut down the film company and several of his publications. By 1937, the corporation faced a court-ordered reorganization, and Hearst was forced to sell many of his antiques and art collections to pay creditors. During this time, his editorials became more strident and vitriolic, and he seemed out of touch. He turned against President Roosevelt, while most of his readership was made up of working-class people who supported FDR. Hearst didn’t help his declining reputation when, in 1934, he visited Berlin and interviewed Adolph Hitler, helping to legitimize Hitler’s leadership in Germany.
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