George Hearst

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George Hearst
George Hearst (cropped).jpg
United States Senator from California
In office
1887–1891
Preceded by Abram P. Williams
Succeeded by Charles N. Felton
Personal details
Born (1820-09-03)September 3, 1820
near Sullivan, Missouri
Died February 28, 1891(1891-02-28) (aged 70)
Washington, D.C.
Resting place Cypress Lawn Memorial Park
37°40′30″N 122°27′02.1″W / 37.67500°N 122.450583°W / 37.67500; -122.450583 (George Hearst burial site)
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Phoebe E. Apperson
Children William Randolph Hearst
Parents
  • William G. Hearst
  • Elizabeth Collins
Net worth USD $19 million at the time of his death (approximately 1/712th of the US GNP)[1]

George Hearst (September 3, 1820 – February 28, 1891) was a wealthy American businessman and United States Senator, and the father of newspaperman William Randolph Hearst.

Early life and education[edit]

Hearst, of Scottish origin, was born near Sullivan, Missouri, to William G. Hearst and Elizabeth Collins.[2][3]

Mining career[edit]

Ophir Mill ruins, Comstock Lode. The Ophir Mine is where Hearst made his first fortune, in 1859.

When his father died in 1846, Hearst took over the care of his mother, brother and sister. In addition, he did some mining and ran a general store.[4] He first heard of the discovery of gold in California in 1849. Before deciding to depart, he continued to read further news on the subject so that he could be more certain it was true. Finally, in 1850, as a member of a party of 16, he left for California.[5] After arriving in 1850, he and his companions first tried placer mining in the vicinity of Sutter's Mill on the American River. After spending a cold winter and making meager finds, they moved to Grass Valley on the news of a new lode. Using his mining education and experience in Missouri, Hearst switched to prospecting and dealing in quartz mines.[3][6][7][8] After almost ten years, Hearst was making a decent living as a prospector, and otherwise engaged in running a general store,[9] mining, stock raising and farming in Nevada County.[10]

In the summer of 1859, Hearst learned of the wonderful silver assays of the "blue stuff" someone had picked up over what was to become the Comstock Lode, and sent to a Nevada County assayer. Hearst hurried over to the Washoe district of western Utah territory, where he arranged to buy a one-sixth interest in the Ophir Mine there, near present day Virginia City. That winter, Hearst and his partners managed to mine 38 tons of high-grade silver ore, packed it across the Sierra on muleback, had it smelted in San Francisco, and made $91,000 profit (or roughly $3,550,000 in 2013 dollars). It was the sight of the bars of Ophir silver that started the rush to Washoe.[11]

Investments[edit]

As a partner of Hearst, Haggin, Tevis and Co., Hearst had interests in the Comstock Lode and the Ophir mine in Nevada, the Ontario silver mine in Utah, the Pacific mine in Pinos Altos, New Mexico,[12] the Homestake gold mine in South Dakota (his pursuit of which is fictionalized in the HBO television series Deadwood), and the Anaconda Copper Mine in Montana. (He later invested in the Cerro de Pasco Mine in Peru.) The company grew to be the largest private mining firm in the United States. Hearst acquired the reputation of being the most expert prospector and judge of mining property on the Pacific coast, and contributed to the development of the modern processes of quartz and other kinds of mining. His son insisted on taking control of one of his father's holdings, the San Francisco Examiner, which became the foundation of the Hearst publishing empire. Hearst bought the newspaper as a sign of loyalty to his friends by accepting it as payment for a gambling debt owed to him. One of his biggest investments was the Homestake Mine in South Dakota in 1877. Although the gold ore was lean, it was a massive deposit that remained as an active mine until 2002.

Personal and political life[edit]

He returned to Missouri in 1860 in order to care for his ailing mother and take care of some legal disputes. During this time, he became reacquainted with a younger neighbor, a girl of 18, whom the 40-year-old Hearst married on June 15, 1862.[13] In 1862 Hearst and his new bride, Phoebe Apperson, moved to San Francisco. Phoebe gave birth to their only child, William Randolph Hearst, April 29, 1863. Hearst was a member of the California State Assembly from 1865 until 1866, one of 12 members representing San Francisco. During this time (1865) he acquired Rancho Piedra Blanca at San Simeon, California. He later bought parts of adjoining ranchos, and this land eventually became the site of the famed Hearst Castle. George and Phoebe's residence on the property still exists at the top of the hill on which the castle is built. They also maintained a home in San Francisco at the corner of Chestnut and Leavenworth.[14]

Hearst owned a Thoroughbred horse racing stable. One of his better known horses was Jerome Handicap winner, Tournament. Following Hearst's death, Tournament was bought by Foxhall P. Keene when the stable was auctioned off at a dispersal sale on May 14, 1891.[15]

He was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Governor of California in 1882.

Senatorial career[edit]

He was appointed as a Democrat to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of John F. Miller, and served from March 23, 1886 to August 4, 1886, when a successor was elected. In 1887 he was elected to the Senate as a Democrat and served from March 4, 1887 until his death.

Death[edit]

Hearst died, aged 70, in Washington, D.C. on February 28, 1891. The California Legislature and state courts adjourned, so officials could attend his funeral.[16]

He is buried with his wife and son in Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma, California. The Hearst Memorial Mining Building on the Berkeley campus is dedicated to his memory.

Depictions in television and film[edit]

The actor Barry Kelley portrayed George Hearst in the 1964 episode "The Paper Dynasty" of the syndicated television series Death Valley Days, hosted by Ronald W. Reagan.

Gerald McRaney portrayed Hearst on the HBO television series Deadwood. Hearst is depicted in season 3 as a ruthless and borderline sociopathic robber baron.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Klepper, Michael; Gunther, Michael (1996). The Wealthy 100: From Benjamin Franklin to Bill Gates—A Ranking of the Richest Americans, Past and Present. Secaucus, New Jersey: Carol Publishing Group. p. xiii. ISBN 978-0-8065-1800-8. OCLC 33818143 
  2. ^ Watson, Margaret: "Greenwood County Sketches", p. 254. Attic Press, 1970
  3. ^ a b "Biographical Notes – George Hearst". inn-california.com. Retrieved 2011-02-13. 
  4. ^ Nasaw, David (2000). "The Chief", p. 4. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000, (ISBN 0-395-82759-0).
  5. ^ "Press Reference Library", vol. 2, p. 34. International News Service, 1915
  6. ^ Nasaw, David (2000). "The Chief", p. 5. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000, (ISBN 0-395-82759-0).
  7. ^ "A Brief History of Hearst Corporation". Hearst Corporation. February 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-13. 
  8. ^ "George Hearst - Father of a Mining and Publishing Empire". legendsofamerica.com. Retrieved 2011-02-13. 
  9. ^ Nasaw, David (2000). "The Chief", p. 6. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000, (ISBN 0-395-82759-0).
  10. ^ "A Brief History of Nevada City". nevadacitychamber.com. Nevada City Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved 2006-07-06. [dead link]
  11. ^ Rodman W Paul, 1963, Mining frontiers of the Far West, 1848-1880., p. 63. ISBN 978-0-8263-0315-8
  12. ^ Ericson, Duane (2007). Silver City Narrow Gauge. M2FQ Publications. p. 16. 
  13. ^ Crawford County, Missouri Marriage Book, Volume B, page 139
  14. ^ Letter by Caleb Bowles (George's first cousin), February 1, 1868
  15. ^ "Racing News And Notions; Improvements To Be Made At The Brooklyn Track. Senator Hearst's Stable Of Racers To Be Sold At Auction -- Gossip About Some Of The Brooklyn Jockey Club Handicap Horses". The New York Times. April 13, 1891. 
  16. ^ California Women and Politics: From the Gold Rush to the Great Depression, Ed. by Robert W. Cherny. (University of Nebraska Press), p. 92.

External links[edit]

California Assembly
Preceded by
Twelve members
California State Assemblyman, 8th District
(San Francisco seat)

1865-1867
(with eleven others)
Succeeded by
Twelve members
United States Senate
Preceded by
John F. Miller
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from California
1886
Served alongside: Leland Stanford
Succeeded by
Abram P. Williams
Preceded by
Abram P. Williams
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from California
1887–1891
Served alongside: Leland Stanford
Succeeded by
Charles N. Felton