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George Hearst

In office
1887 – 1891
Preceded by Abram P. Williams
Succeeded by Charles N. Felton

Born December 3, 1820(1820-12-03)
near Sullivan, Missouri
Died February 28, 1891 (aged 70)
Washington, D.C.
Political party Democratic

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.



Hearst was born near Sullivan, Missouri to William G. Hearst and Elizabeth Collins.[1] He attended public school and was partially home-schooled by his mother, which later in life Mr. Hearst related as his most valuable learning experience;[2]. He learned most of the technical aspects of mining from borrowing books from Doctor Silas Reed, a local physician, as well as from a local lead mine.

When his father died in 1846, George took over the care of his mother and his brother and sister. In addition, he did some mining and ran a general store.[3] 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[4] (according to some reports, he walked the entire way). 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, George switched to prospecting and dealing in quartz mines.[5] After almost ten years, Hearst was making a decent living as a prospector, and otherwise engaged in running a general store,[6] mining, stock raising and farming in Nevada County.[7]

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 Homestake gold mine in South Dakota (his pursuit of which is dramatized 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. Another of his holdings, that his son insisted on taking control of, was the San Francisco Examiner, which became the foundation of the Hearst publishing empire. He bought the newspaper as a sign of loyalty to his friends. He did not believe it could become a profitable entreprise but was convinced to purchase it anyhow.

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[8]. 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 base of the hill on which the castle is built. They also maintained a home in San Francisco at the corner of Chestnut and Leavenworth[9].

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. [1]

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

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. During his time as Senator, he accomplished very little but nonetheless was a very well respected man. He commanded every ear the few times he would speak up. His experience in the Western frontier was well respected, and his opinion was asked when dealing with matters about the West.


Hearst died, aged 70, in Washington, D.C. February 28, 1891. The San Francisco legislature left early to attend George’s funeral.

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

George Hearst was portrayed by Gerald McRaney on the HBO television series Deadwood. On the show, Hearst was depicted as a sociopathic robber baron who was willing to do anything to acquire gold (or "the color," as he calls it). Among other crimes, he murders several Cornish miners in order to prevent them from unionizing. He also uses the Pinkerton Detective Agency to terrorize and assassinate the owners of gold mines who are reluctant to sell to him. After a feud with Seth Bullock and Al Swearengen, he moves his mining operations in the Black Hills out of the Deadwood camp.

External links


  1. ^ Watson, Margaret: "Greenwood County Sketches", p. 254. Attic Press, 1970
  2. ^ "Press Reference Library", vol. 2, p. 33. International News Service, 1915
  3. ^ Nasaw, David (2000). "The Chief", p. 4. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000, (ISBN 0-395-82759-0).
  4. ^ "Press Reference Library", vol. 2, p. 34. International News Service, 1915
  5. ^ Nasaw, David (2000). "The Chief", p. 5. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000, (ISBN 0-395-82759-0).
  6. ^ Nasaw, David (2000). "The Chief", p. 6. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000, (ISBN 0-395-82759-0).
  7. ^ "A Brief History of Nevada City" (HTML). Nevada City Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved 2006-07-06.  
  8. ^ Crawford County, Missouri Marriage Book, Volume B, page 139
  9. ^ Letter by Caleb Bowles (George's first cousin), February 1, 1868
Political offices
Preceded by
Twelve members
California State Assemblyman, 8th District
(San Francisco seat)

(with eleven others)
Succeeded by
Twelve members
United States Senate
Preceded by
John F. Miller
United States Senator (Class 1) from California
Served alongside: Leland Stanford
Succeeded by
Abram P. Williams
Preceded by
Abram P. Williams
United States Senator (Class 1) from California
Served alongside: Leland Stanford
Succeeded by
Charles N. Felton


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