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George Hearst (September 3, 1820 – February 28, 1891) was a wealthy American businessman, miner, and politician. After growing up on a small farm in Missouri, and founding many mining operations, he is known for developing and expanding the Homestake Mine in the late 1870s in the Black Hills of South Dakota. In 1879 he listed it on the New York Stock Exchange, and went on to other pursuits. It operated continuously, producing gold until 2001.

George Hearst
George Hearst (cropped).jpg
United States Senator
from California
In office
March 4, 1887 – February 28, 1891
Preceded byAbram P. Williams
Succeeded byCharles N. Felton
In office
March 23, 1886 – August 4, 1886
Preceded byJohn F. Miller
Succeeded byAbram P. Williams
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 8th district
In office
1865–1867
Personal details
Born(1820-09-03)September 3, 1820
Sullivan, Missouri, U.S.
DiedFebruary 28, 1891(1891-02-28) (aged 70)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Resting placeCypress Lawn Memorial Park, Colma, California
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)
Phoebe Elizabeth Apperson
(m. 1862; his death 1891)
ChildrenWilliam Randolph Hearst
ResidenceSan Francisco, California, U.S.
ProfessionBusiness magnate and Politician
Net worthUSD $19 million at the time of his death (approximately 1/712th of the US GNP)[1]

After settling in San Francisco in the early 1860s, Hearst became a politician, first representing San Francisco in the state legislature for one term. He also maintained mining interests through his company. Hearst was appointed as a United States Senator in 1886 to fill a vacancy, and was elected as a Democrat later that year on his own account. He served in the Senate from 1887 to his death in 1891. His only child from his late marriage (at age 40) was son William Randolph Hearst, who became internationally known as a newspaperman and publisher, associated with using "yellow journalism" to attract readers.

Contents

Early lifeEdit

Hearst was born near present-day Sullivan, Missouri, to William G. Hearst and Elizabeth Collins, who were of Scots-Irish ancestry.[2][3] Hearst, one of three children – two boys and a girl – was raised in a log cabin on his family's farm in rural Franklin County. His father operated three small farms, all of which were mortgaged, and depended on African-American slaves. William Hearst sold his products in his own local general store.

George Hearst grew up before public education was widely available in Missouri, meaning his elementary education was inconsistent and fragmented. Becoming interested in mining, Hearst supplemented the gaps in his formal education by observing the local mines, reading information about minerals and mining in his free time.[4]

Mining careerEdit

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

When his father died in 1846, Hearst at the age of 26 took over the support of his family: his mother, brother and sister. In addition, he did some mining and ran a general store.[5] He first heard of the discovery of gold in California in 1849. Before deciding to depart, he read further news on the subject to make sure it was true. In 1850, as a member of a party of 16, he left for California.[6]

He and his party first tried placer mining in the vicinity of Sutter's Mill on the American River. After spending a cold winter and making meager findings, they moved to Grass Valley in 1851 on the news of a new lode. Hearst switched to prospecting and dealing in quartz mines.[3][7][8][9] After almost ten years, Hearst was making a decent living as a prospector, and otherwise engaged in running a general store,[10] mining, raising livestock and farming in Nevada County.[11]

In the summer of 1859, Hearst learned of promising silver assays of the "blue stuff" someone had picked up in Utah Territory (near what was to become the Comstock Lode), and had assayed in Nevada County, California. Hearst hurried 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 mined 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 $2,500,000 in 2016 dollars). People who saw the bars of Ophir silver in San Francisco rushed to Washoe.[12]

Hearst knew Marcus Daly from their Comstock Lode work. In the summer of 1872 Daly suggested the potential of the Ontario silver mine in Park City, Utah. The Ontario carried Hearst through the Panic of 1873 and produced seventeen million dollars in ten years. Hearst later financed Marcus Daly to operate his Anaconda mine in Butte, Montana and acquired an interest in that mine as well.[13]

InvestmentsEdit

With other mining investors, Hearst set up Hearst, Haggin, Tevis and Co., in which he was a partner. He 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,[14] the Homestake gold mine in South Dakota, and the Anaconda Copper Mine in Montana. The Homestake Mine was one of his biggest investments. Although the gold ore was lean, the massive deposit supported an active mine until 2001. Hearst later[when?]invested in the Cerro de Pasco Mine in Peru. His 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. He contributed to the development of the modern processes of quartz and other[vague] kinds of mining.

George Hearst acquired the San Francisco Examiner newspaper as a sign of loyalty to his friends by accepting it as payment for a gambling debt owed to him. He primarily used the Examiner to promote the interests of the Democratic Party, and to laud the party's initiatives, especially when they were under public attack.[15] His son William Randolph Hearst insisted on taking control of this holding of his father. The younger Hearst made the Examiner the foundation of what became his Hearst publishing empire.

Personal and political lifeEdit

While building his mining career, George Hearst had supported his family in Missouri. In 1860, he returned to the state to care for his ailing mother and take care of some legal disputes. During this time, he became reacquainted with Phoebe Apperson, a neighbor of 18. The 40-year-old Hearst married her two years later, on June 15, 1862.[16]

In 1862 Hearst and his new bride, Phoebe Apperson, moved to San Francisco. Phoebe gave birth to their only child, William Randolph Hearst, on April 29, 1863.

Hearst was elected to the California State Assembly in 1864, serving one term from 1865 until 1866. He was one of 12 members representing San Francisco. His knowledge of mines and the mining industry proved valuable, and he was selected for a special Committee on Mines and Mining Interests.[4] During this time (1865) he acquired Rancho Piedra Blanca at San Simeon, California. He later bought parts of adjoining ranchos. This land was later developed by his son as the Hearst Castle. The Hearsts also maintained a town home in San Francisco at the corner of Chestnut and Leavenworth.[17]

Hearst owned a thoroughbred horse racing stable. One of his better known horses was "Tournament", which won the Jerome Handicap. Following Hearst's death, Tournament was bought by Foxhall P. Keene, when the Hearst stable was auctioned at a dispersal sale on May 14, 1891.[18]

Hearst ran unsuccessfully in 1882 as the Democratic candidate for Governor of California. Until this point, Hearst had a political relationship with Central Pacific Railroad. However, when the railroad's leadership backed the other Democratic nominee in the primary, Hearst joined Christopher Augustine Buckley and Stephen M. White in developing the Anti-Monopoly Coalition.[19]

Senatorial careerEdit

Hearst 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 1886 he was elected in the regular election that year by the state legislature to the Senate as a Democrat, serving from March 4, 1887 until his death in 1891. As senator, Hearst focused on reducing Central Pacific's power in American commerce.[19]

Death and legacyEdit

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.[20] When Phoebe Apperson Hearst inherited her husband's wealth, she donated a great deal of it to help found new libraries at several universities.[21] Hearst is buried in Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma, California. His widow and son were later buried there after their deaths.

The Hearst Memorial Mining Building on the Berkeley campus is dedicated to George Hearst.

In popular cultureEdit

  • Gerald McRaney portrayed Hearst as a villain on the HBO television series Deadwood, set in South Dakota as he acquired new claims and expanded the Homestake Mine.

See alsoEdit

  • List of United States Congress members who died in office (1790–1899)
  • White, Richard (2011). Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-06126-0.

ReferencesEdit

  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. ^ a b Carlisle, Rodney P. "Hearst, George," American National Biography Online, (Oxford University Press, 2000). http://www.anb.org/articles/05/05-00334.html
  5. ^ Nasaw, David (2000). The Chief, p. 4. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000, (ISBN 0-395-82759-0).
  6. ^ "Press Reference Library", vol. 2, p. 34. International News Service, 1915
  7. ^ Nasaw, David (2000). "The Chief", p. 5. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000, (ISBN 0-395-82759-0).
  8. ^ "A Brief History of Hearst Corporation" (PDF). Hearst Corporation. February 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-05-19. Retrieved 2011-02-13.
  9. ^ "George Hearst - Father of a Mining and Publishing Empire". legendsofamerica.com. Retrieved 2011-02-13.
  10. ^ Nasaw, David (2000). "The Chief", p. 6. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000, (ISBN 0-395-82759-0).
  11. ^ "A Brief History of Nevada City". nevadacitychamber.com. Nevada City Chamber of Commerce. Archived from the original on June 16, 2006. Retrieved 2006-07-06.
  12. ^ Rodman W Paul, 1963, Mining Frontiers of the Far West, 1848-1880., p. 63. ISBN 978-0-8263-0315-8
  13. ^ C. B. Glasscock, War of the Copper Kings, 1966 edition, p70.
  14. ^ Ericson, Duane (2007). Silver City Narrow Gauge. M2FQ Publications. p. 16.
  15. ^ Williams, R. Hall. The Democratic Party and California Politics, 1880-1896. (Stanford University Press, 1973). p. 46
  16. ^ Crawford County, Missouri Marriage Book, Volume B, page 139
  17. ^ Letter by Caleb Bowles (George's first cousin), February 1, 1868;
  18. ^ "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.
  19. ^ a b Hall (1973). The Democratic Party and California Politics, p. 25
  20. ^ California Women and Politics: From the Gold Rush to the Great Depression, Ed. by Robert W. Cherny. (University of Nebraska Press), p. 92.
  21. ^ Richards, Susan L. "Library Philanthropy with a Personal Touch: Phoebe Apperson Hearst and the Libraries of Lead and Anaconda," Libraries & Culture, Vol. 31, No. 1, (University of Texas Press, 1996): 197-208. JSTOR 25548430
  22. ^ "The Paper Dynasty". Internet Movie Data Base. March 1, 1964. Retrieved August 7, 2015.

External linksEdit

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

1865-1867
(with eleven others)
Succeeded by
Twelve members
U.S. 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