The Yellow Press: William Randolph Hearst
A mini-bio of William Randolph Hearst
(April 29, 1863 – August 14, 1951)
America’s most recognized name in newspaper barons, W. R. Hearst, was also an active figure in politics; a collector, a real estate investor, a media mogul, who came into public life opininated and headstrong at twenty-three, with his father, Senator George Hearst’s, gift of control over The San Francisco Examiner; retaining a sphere of influence to his death at the age of 88, and the distribution of his estate.
Hearst’s career unfolded in a series of enemy relationships, fights notably picked with other titans of the press: “Colonel” McCormick of the Chicago Tribune, James Gordon Bennett of the New York Herald, Ogden Reid of the New York Tribune, Joseph Pulitzer of the New York World, and at the outset of Hearst’s career, John D. Spreckels, of the San Francisco Call.
Bennett attacked Hearst when Hearst made his first aggressive move into the New York market, with his purchase of the Journal; Hearst punched back with an investigative vendetta that ruined Bennett after bringing about a conviction and fine, against Bennett personally, on charges of obscenity, and distribution of obscene materials through the mail.
Reid was a relentless attacker of Hearst during WWI, and the NY Tribune was the most persistent coverer of the Bolo Pacha scandal (see below).
Politically, he feuded with (among many others) William Jennings Bryan and F.D.R., both of whom he’d originally supported. Bryan had failed to support in turn Hearst’s 1904 presidential bid, and Hearst, with his newly organized Independent Party, tried with intent to weaken Bryan’s 1908 presidential run by drawing off voters and enabling William Howard Taft to win. In 1936, Hearst supported Alf Landon against F.D.R., a candidate he’d helped nominate in 1932, but whose New Deal programs and support of America’s involvement in Europe he opposed. Hearst himself sought office continually for many years during his prime, holding the house seat for New York’s 11th district from 1903 to 1907. Of other offices he ran for, he won none, but tried twice to be New York City mayor, and once to be New York state governor. He was a Democrat, an Independent, and an arch-conservative, a strong isolationist…and a particular hater of the British.
Hearst had a formidable mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst—native Missourian, philanthropist, club woman, and late-life dabbler in the Bahá’í Faith—to whom he was strongly attached, and who backed his enterprises with financial support. Hearst’s mother also introduced him to, and helped develop in him, a lifelong passion for collecting art and artifacts.
His purchases filled five warehouses, as well as two estates in California and one in Wales.
“Publisher Spent Millions for Art” NYT, August 15, 1951
He dismantled part of the Spanish Cistercian monastery of Santa Maria de Oliva stone by stone, had these numbered and shipped to America in boxes, with the aim of reconstructing the building at his estate of Wyntoon. The remains are presently in the possession of San Francisco’s de Young Museum.
Hearst’s personality type inclined him, as his life’s trajectory indicates, to seeing himself holder of the right point of view about every new enthusiasm. From the first story below, in which, having chosen his future wife, he sets about improving her, to his constant feuding with political rivals and fellow newspaper barons, his habit was to join a new party, market, etc., and tell its veterans how to do their jobs…a fairly sure recipe for conflict.
Showbiz-wise, Hearst was well known for a decades-long affair with actress Marion Davies (to whom he left a Beverly Hills house), and a feud with Orson Welles, over the film Citizen Kane.
How Hearst was spoken of in his lifetime; how he spoke himself, when writing for publication. Below, assorted article excerpts (click image to enlarge).
From “A Woman’s Pen Portrait”: Miss Wilson was a poor girl. Mr. Hearst met her and fell desperately in love with the vivacious miss. His affection was reciprocated. He requested her parents to put her in college and he would furnish the money for her highest possible education. After her graduation he took her and her mother on a tour of the world that she might have the culture of travel.
The Labor World, March 26, 1904.
Mr. Hearst had criticized President McKinley with such virulence that when the President was assassinated by Leon Czolgosz on Sept. 6, 1901, the public angrily recalled a verse written for the journal by Ambrose Bierce shortly after Gov. William Goebel of Kentucky had been shot to death:
The bullet that pierced Goebel’s breast
Cannot be found in all the West.
Good reason, it is speeding here
To stretch McKinley in his bier.
The incident caused Mr. Hearst to be an object of widespread public indignation, and he was hanged in effigy on several occasions.
From Hearst death profile, NYT, August 15, 1951
The guiding hand is his o’er the destinies of the Independence League—which aims not for independence of thought, but the segregation of parties into infinitesimal atoms.
Truth, October 31, 1908
Both of them talk most radically at times, but their interests are with reaction, and if the common people follow them to the end, and make them greater millionaires than Northcliffe, the people will get no further ahead than they are today.
Referring to Hearst and Senator Arthur Capper, “with his farm papers and dailies”.
The National Leader, September 21, 1922
The situation in Mexico will never be solved until the United States does its full duty there, occupies and pacifies the country. And the best way to keep it pacified and make it as pacific and prosperous as California, is to make it, like California, a part of the United States of America.
Hearst quoted, New York Tribune, May 26, 1918
This brought forth another bitter tirade against Hearst and Lawrence from McCormick, who charged Hearst with the assassination of McKinley, the attempted assassination of Mayor Gaynor of New York and with making President Taft ridiculous in an attempt to force Taft to declare war on Mexico because Hearst owns 1,000,000 acres of land in Mexico.
The Day Book, June 10, 1913
The story shows how Hearst fakes news, colors it, suppresses it and deliberately manufacture[s] it to serve his own selfish purposes, or those who are back of him in this vicious campaign against President Wilson and Secretary Bryan.
The Day Book, July 29, 1914
A few days ago, in the hearing of this writer, he said to his chief editorial writer, “You cannot do me a greater favor than by writing against whisky EVERY DAY. I do not care if it takes fifty years to win, or if my boys inherit the fight from me. My newspapers are going to rid the country of whisky.”
The Washington Times, June 30, 1917
But that is diverting. This man Hearst, in a position to have been a great power for good to the honor of his country and himself, chose to side with his country’s enemies, and his countrymen should make him a man without a country.
Goodwin’s Weekly, December 28, 1918
Value of the vast realty holdings causes the great variance in estimates [of Hearst’s mother’s estate].
Evening Capital News April 18, 1919
His organs contended that even feed should be withheld from the European nations, adding ‘that every shipment of food and military supplies from this time on is a blow at our own safety’.
New York Tribune July 29, 1918
Bolo Pacha, whom William Randolph Hearst received in this country as a “distinguished journalist” anxious to discuss the newsprint paper famine—Bolo Pacha was the first to be executed. He was shot at Vincennes, France, for the crime of treason to the Allied cause.
At the time referred to by Senator [Charles] Humbert, Bolo Pacha was spreading defeatist propaganda in France through his newspapers there and Hearst was spreading pacifist and anti-Ally doctrine in the United States, Canada and Mexico through his numerous publications here.
New York Tribune, August 17, 1918
I have lost faith in the empty professions of an unregenerate Democracy. I have lost confidence in the ability, in the sincerity, and even in the integrity of its leaders. I do not consider it patriotism to pretend to support that which as a citizen, I distrust and detest…
Hearst quoted, Ottumwa Tri-Weekly Courier July 18, 1908
Declaring the right of a taxpayer to maintain a suit against individual officials of the United States to restrain actions which contravene the law and are to public detriment…attorneys for William Randolph Hearst, in his suit against John Barton Payne and others…
The Washington Times March 22, 1920
To begin with, Hearst’s “Deutsches Journal”, from April 6, 1917, to September 18, 1917—when the government’s action prevented the printing of further political editorials—practiced almost every one of the methods of obstructing the war and dampening national enthusiasm followed by “The New York American”.
New York Tribune, June 2, 1918
The Forgotten Bolo Pacha Scandal
Paul Bolo, born 1867 in Marseille, known during press coverage of his WWI activities as Bolo Pacha (also Pasha), was executed for treason (for dissemination of defeatist propaganda) against France, on 17 April 1918.
He was a political adventurer, a sometime ministry employee, imprisoned once for jewel theft, after being returned to France from Argentina. His two wives were music hall singers. The Egyptian Khedive (a friend of Germany) used him as financial counsellor, and gave him the title of pacha.
He had accumulated 11 million marks issued by the Deutsche bank, laundered through a New York bank, in aid of his purchasing Paris dailies. The scheme involved using Le Journal, Le Bonnet, etc., for public influence towards an early peace with Germany, to discourage the French (to their disadvantage and Germany’s relief) from continuing the war.
The NY Tribune (Ogden Reid’s paper) lists a number of newspaper figures executed for participation in the Bolo scheme, and says Bolo bought Le Journal for 1,000,000 dollars in German gold, returned through mediary Count von Bernstorff, to French senator Charles Humbert, owner of Le Journal. The editor of Le Bonnet, Émile-Joseph Duval, was among those executed.
The scandal also caught up Joseph Caillaux, a former premier of France, convicted of treason, and sentenced to three years in prison. (Caillaux was the star of one of France’s biggest flaps of the early 20th century, when his wife killed the editor of Figaro for publishing letters from Joseph to his mistress.)
Treason in each case consisted of attacking the spirit and morale of France and spreading defeatist propaganda.
Almost the first thing he [Bolo] did after getting control of The Paris Journal was to write a two-column eulogy of William Randolph Hearst, accompanied by a two-column portrait. That was two months after he had met Hearst in New York.
Quotes from NY Tribune 17 Aug 1918
Bolo’s words, quoted within the article, from his piece mentioned above, on Hearst: “This handler of the masses has brought under his control all the means by which one can appeal to the crowd.”
30 Septembre 1917 Le Figaro
(A translated excerpt from the above-dated article)
[headline] Where is the money ?
[sub-head] Bolo Pacha at the prison of Fresnes.
Yesterday, they arrested Bolo Pacha. They know precisely now the origin of the money that he distributed for the count, and in the interest of Germany. The accused has been transported from his apartment at the Grand Hotel to the infirmary of Fresnes, soon to be famous. They say he is dying. “Death to traitors!” the crowd on his departure shouted on the boulevard. What the clamor may have of excess and cruelty, makes the point no less sound. This is the cry of necessity. It means, “Long live the homeland, and long live justice!”
Let us give to all these miserable men, prosecuted at last, the guarantees of criminal law; let the judges take their time; but let them continue to the end, the work of salvation and salubrity. At this time when so many Frenchmen are killed at the front, the crowd, in which many wear mourning-bands, has every right to hurl these cries of death on the passage of those who seeded and harvested enemy gold for the work of our defeat.
2018, Stephanie Foster