William Howard Hearst

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William Howard Hearst
William Hearst.jpg
The Hon. Sir William Hearst
7th Premier of Ontario
In office
October 2, 1914 – November 14, 1919
MonarchGeorge V
Lieutenant GovernorJohn Strathearn Hendrie
Preceded byJames Whitney
Succeeded byErnest Charles Drury
MPP for Sault Ste. Marie
In office
June 8, 1908 – September 23, 1919
Preceded byCharles Napier Smith
Succeeded byJames Cunningham
Personal details
Born(1864-02-15)February 15, 1864
Arran Township, Canada West
DiedSeptember 29, 1941(1941-09-29) (aged 77)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Resting placeMount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto
Political partyOntario PC Party
Spouse(s)Isabella Jane Duncan

Sir William Howard Hearst, KCMG (February 15, 1864 – September 29, 1941) was the seventh Premier of the Canadian province of Ontario from 1914 to 1919.

Early years[edit]

Sir William Howard Hearst was born in the Township of Arran in Bruce County, Ontario. He studied law at Osgoode Hall, Toronto, and became a lawyer in 1888. Hearst moved to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, where he opened up a law firm called Hearst, McKay and Darling in the Ganley Block at 604 Queen Street.[1] Hearst participated actively in the Sault Ste. Marie community and he was on the building committee to erect a new Methodist church at the corner of Spring Street and Albert Street in Sault Ste. Marie.[2] The Methodist church that was eventually built still stands and is now known as Central United Church. He was an unsuccessful candidate in the Algoma East riding in 1894. In 1902 he organized support in Northern Ontario for James P. Whitney. Hearst was also appointed Sault Ste. Marie's volunteer fire chief from 1891 to 1892.[3] Hearst built a house at the corner of Queen Street and Upton Road, known as "Eastbourne", which would go on to become a designated heritage property in the City of Sault Ste. Marie.[4]

In 1908 Hearst was elected member for the riding of Sault Ste. Marie. He became Minister of Forests and Mines in 1911. On the death of James P. Whitney in 1914, Hearst became his successor and was sworn in as Premier on October 2, 1914. Hearst was the first Premier from Northern Ontario.

Premier of Ontario[edit]

Under his administration a comprehensive measure to provide compensation to workers for injuries was put into operation. He took steps to deal with housing problems and provide loans to settlers. Municipal acts were passed. School fairs and the teaching of agriculture were inaugurated. Measures were taken to increase war production. Reforestation and fire prevention services were established. And the Orpington Hospital in England was built as a gift from the people of Ontario.

In 1916, the Ontario Temperance Act (OTA) was introduced as a temporary wartime measure by Hearst, a temperance advocate and pillar of the Methodist church. It made possession of liquor and beer outside one's home illegal. Although one could retain a 'cellar supply' for personal consumption, it was illegal to sell a drink. As a result, the government shut down bars, taverns, clubs and liquor stores.

His government also passed legislation to permit women to vote in provincial elections and called a plebiscite on prohibition. The plebiscite was held the same day as the 1919 general election. While prohibition was approved by the voters, the Hearst government was unexpectedly defeated by the United Farmers of Ontario party in their first election. He resumed his law practice in Toronto after his term as premier.

After politics[edit]

Hearst served as a member of the International Joint Commission formed to settle international boundary waters disputes between the United States and Canada.


A street in Sault Ste. Marie has been named after him. A city streets directory from 1914 shows the street was previously called "Hurst Street",[5] but by 1915, the year after Hearst became Premier of Ontario, the name was changed to "Hearst Street".[6]

The Town of Hearst, in Northern Ontario, is named for William Hearst.

A street in North York, south of the intersection of Keele Street and Wilson Avenue is named after him.

Sir William Hearst Ave

Ministry of Transportation Offices and New Humber River Hospital on this street.

A plaque honouring Sir William H. Hearst stands in Tara Park in the Municipality of Arran–Elderslie in Bruce County. It was erected by the Ontario Archeological and Historic Sites Board.[7]

In July 2015, the City of Sault Ste. Marie recognized Hearst by naming the holiday on the first Monday in August (previously known as Civic Holiday) as Sir William H. Hearst Day.[8]


Further reading[edit]

  • Middletown, Jesse Edgar (1923). The Municipality of Toronto - A History. III. Toronto: Dominion Publishing. p. 67. OCLC 9709767.
  • Oliver, Peter. "Sir William Hearst and the collapse of the Ontario Conservative Party". Public and Private Persons: The Ontario Political Culture, 1914-1934. Toronto: Clarke Irwin. pp. 16–43. OCLC 2525531.
  • Dubro, James; Rowland, Robin F. (1987). King of the Mob: Rocco Perri and the women who ran his rackets. Toronto: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-009823-2.
  • Rocco Perri Scrapbook (Hamilton Herald Newspaper articles) 12 April 1927, 14, 16, 18 August 1930
  • Tennyson, Brian Douglas. “Mackenzie King and Patronage in the Public Service: An Historical Footnote.” Journal of Canadian Studies 6:1 (February 1971): 56-60.
  • Tennyson, Brian Douglas. “Premier Hearst, the War, and Votes for Women.” Ontario History 57:3 (September 1965): 115-21.
  • Tennyson, Brian Douglas. “Sir Adam Beck and the Ontario General Election of 1919.” Ontario History 58:3 (September 1966): 157-62.
  • Tennyson, Brian Douglas. “Sir William Hearst and the Ontario Temperance Act.” Ontario History 55:4 (December 1963): 233-46.
  • Tennyson, Brian Douglas. “The Cruise of the Minnie M.” Ontario History 59:2 (June 1967): 125-28.
  • Tennyson, Brian Douglas. “The Ontario General Election of 1919: The Beginnings of Agrarian Revolt.’ Journal of Canadian Studies 4:1 (February 1969): 26-36.
  • Tennyson, Brian Douglas. “The Succession of William H Hearst to the Ontario Premier-ship—September 1914.” Ontario History 56:3 (September 1964): 158-89.

External links[edit]

Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
C. H. Mitchell
President of the Empire Club of Canada
Succeeded by
Elias H. Wilkinson