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George Hearst

Business Personality / U.S. Senator

Born: 3 September 1820
Died: 28 February 1891
Birthplace: Franklin County, Missouri
Best known as: 19th century American mining and publishing tycoon

Near the end of the 19th century, George Hearst was one of the richest men in the United States, a U.S. Senator from California who had made his fortune in mining. He grew up in Franklin County, Missouri and graduated from the mining school there in 1838. Hearst tried farming, prospecting and shop keeping, and in 1850 went to California to follow the gold rush. Though he didn't make it rich in California, a good business deal after the Comstock Lode in Nevada made him wealthy. He went on to be a major investor in the largest mining operations in the U.S., including the Homestake in South Dakota and the Anaconda in Montana. A resident of San Francisco since 1862, he was a member of the State Assembly from 1865-66 and made an unsuccessful bid for governor of California in 1882. First appointed to the United States Senate in 1886 (he filled a vacancy from March to August), he was elected in his own right in 1887 and served until his death in 1891.

In 1880 George Hearst acquired the newspaper The Daily Examiner (later the San Francisco Examiner) in an arrangement somehow connected to a gambling debt (contrary to lore, he did not win it in a poker game). In 1887 his son, William Randolph Hearst, took over operations of the paper. William went on to become a towering figure in the publishing industry and is said to have been the basis for the film Citizen Kane (1941, by Orson Welles).

Extra credit:

Phoebe Apperson Hearst, George's wife, became a philanthropist who contributed greatly to the University of California system, especially the campus at Berkeley. She was also an advocate of early education and saw to the creation of public libraries in Lead, South Dakota and Anaconda, Montana.

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