Nearly a W.R. must Hearst had In 1900, In 1896, To the Establishment In May 1900, On July Amid all Willie had He immediately In 1904, Hearst had Although Two nights Election Hearst created Willie continued Hearst dominated Hearst ran William The will Late in He died
century ago, one of William Randolph Hearst’s editors was summoned to the
Chief’s residence at the Clarendon apartments, 137 Riverside Dr. He found
Mr. Hearst fully dressed, in the sober statesman’s garb he then favored,
but barefoot. They strolled into the kitchen. On the tile floor lay copies of
the Manhattan newspapers. Hearst stopped every now and then to turn the pages
with his toes. "It gives me a better perspective of typographical makeup
and layout," he said.
have been in a quiet mood: usually, he danced between the pages while snapping
his fingers like castanets.
originally occupied the top three floors at the Clarendon. The more than 30
rooms were not enough for his collections of art and antiques, and he asked
permission to make some alterations. The landlord hesitated, much to Hearst’s
irritation, and so the publisher solved the problem by purchasing the entire
building for $950,000. He then took over five floors and the penthouse, creating
several two-story Gothic reception halls, complete with stained glass and baronial
fireplaces, to display his collections of armor, tapestry and silver salvers.
This was barely enough room for Willie, his wife Millicent and their sons, but
somehow they made do.
William Randolph Hearst stood 6-foot-1, with cold, sharp, pale blue eyes. His
dark blond hair was parted down the middle. He weighed 200 pounds, he nervously
tapped his fingers while making a decision, he was painfully shy and he spoke
in a high tenor. His demeanor was misleading: he had tremendous inner strength,
a genius for organization and a determination to lead others. His New York
Morning Journal now had the highest circulation of any newspaper in America,
even Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World. Yet he now had another world
to conquer, and an ungovernable ambition to be president of the United States.
two years before Hearst and his newspapers fomented war with Spain, W.R. dipped
his toe into national politics. His New York Morning Journal and Evening
Journal became the only major Eastern papers to endorse that year’s
Democratic presidential nominee, William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska. The outcome
was immediately profitable: Democrats all along the Eastern seaboard subscribed
to his paper.
of his day, Bryan embodied radicalism, largely because he meant it. His program
for monetary reform and government regulation of capitalism was important: he
preached a body of ideas about economic and social justice that won the minds
and hearts of nearly half the country. But ideas alone would not have carried
him so far. It was his endurance, his amazing capacity for reiterating his ideas
from town to town in his endless whistle-stop tours, his charisma and his amazing
eloquence, the rhetoric drawn from the King James version, Shakespeare and the
Hearst announced he would establish a new daily newspaper in Chicago to support
Bryan’s second presidential campaign. He insisted, with a straight face,
he was doing it for the party’s sake, not for money. S.S. Carvalho, Hearst’s
business manager, rented an old winery and began renovating it with 800 men
working around the clock in three shifts. Carvalho found he could not hire freight
cars to carry the presses from New York to Chicago, so Hearst hired luxury Pullman
cars instead. As when he broke into New York journalism, he raided his competitors
for their best talent by paying better salaries.
2, 1900, Bryan wired Hearst: "Start the presses." July 4, at the Democratic
National Convention at Kansas City, hundreds of delegates waved copies of Hearst’s
Chicago American. Meanwhile, he bought a special color press for the
Sunday edition of the New York Journal to turn out 16-page comics sections
or color supplements about the harems of East Indian potentates. Then he began
publishing a Sunday magazine supplement, The American Weekly, the typical
story of which, as Stewart Holbrook wrote, could support its classic headline:
NAILED HER FATHER’S HEAD TO THE WALL. Hearst’s house intellectual,
Arthur Brisbane, sanctified this as best he could by using Bible texts whenever
possible and good substantial doses of what he called "science."
this, Hearst exposed the Ice Trust scandal. Before refrigeration and air conditioning,
many people bought ice to cool their food and themselves. Charles W. Morse founded
the American Ice Company, which soon obtained a monopoly over the ice supply
in New York. He doubled the price of ice from 30 to 60 cents per 100 pounds.
On May 15, 1900, Hearst’s Journal exposed that Mayor Robert Van
Wyck, who had prevented competitors from shipping ice into the city, owned 8000
shares of American Ice and that the city’s political leadership all seemed
to have received free stock in the company in exchange for their services in
preventing competition. The exposure was damning. At a time when most New Yorkers
paid no direct taxes, stealing from the city treasury was considered a venial
sin. Denying poor people cheap ice in the summer was something else. Van Wyck
never ran for office again.
no particular regard for most politicians, even those he supported. He decided
to enter the arena himself. On Oct. 2, 1902, the Democratic Congressional
Convention of the 11th District nominated Willie for Congress. Four days later,
he accepted the nomination. He called for direct election of U.S. senators,
government ownership of certain public utilities and the destruction of monopolies.
He flooded the district with posters, fliers, brass bands and demonstrations.
He even held a rally in Madison Square Garden, during which he spoke for 10
minutes. His voice could only be heard by a tenth of the audience, but the crowd
applauded whenever they saw those within earshot applauding. He was interrupted
only once, by a man with a foghorn voice who roared, "Oh, how I wish you
had my voice." On Nov. 4, 1902, he defeated his Republican opponent, 26,953
began setting up Hearst for President clubs throughout the United States to
prepare for 1904. And he married a statuesque 22-year-old dancer, Millicent
Willson, whom he had dated for nearly six years. In the meantime, he took his
seat in Congress. The party leadership mistrusted him and denied him the committee
assignments where he felt he might be useful. He hated the experience. This
is understandable: a man who has worked for a living, after all, has better
things to do than wait around listening to speeches and answering roll calls.
when he was barely 41, he ran for the Democratic presidential nomination. Bryan
had lost two campaigns in a row and had taken himself out of contention. The
party leadership had settled on a colorless judge from New York, Alton B. Parker.
Hearst mounted a nationwide campaign with a ready supply of cash. The convention
opened on July 6, 1904, and Willie put on the usual show: posters on every available
surface, fireworks, brass bands, masses of literature, buttons and flags.
hoped for Bryan’s support. Instead, the Nebraskan nominated a hopeless
candidate, Francis Marion Cockrell of Missouri, with a 45-minute speech of soaring
eloquence. Hearst felt betrayed, given his investment of $7 million in publicizing
Bryan’s 1896 and 1900 campaigns. Hearst received 194 votes on the first
ballot. On a later ballot, he received 263 votes, which would be as close as
he would ever come to the presidency. Some later suggested he would have done
better by bribing delegates, many of whom resented his refusal to pay them off.
Tammany had elected him, Hearst felt Tammany could be overcome. In 1905, he
announced his independent candidacy for mayor. He made the Tammany machine and
Charles F. Murphy, its taciturn and powerful boss, the issue. Hearst’s
papers attacked Murphy as a modern Boss Tweed. Hearst’s campaigners sang:
Everybody woiks but Murphy; He just rakes in the dough. They also sang:
Hoist, Hoist, he’s not the woist; We are for Hoist, Last and foist.
Oddly enough, despite his shyness and high voice, Hearst had made himself an
enormously powerful campaigner. He appeared to enjoy charging into crowds, shaking
hands. His speeches were short and well-crafted. He had learned to project his
voice, keeping it at a low pitch.
before the election, he held a huge rally at Madison Square Garden, with 20,000
people jammed into the hall and another 20,000 standing in the street. After
brass bands and chants and songs, Hearst delivered a fighting speech, calling
on the voters to throw out "the corrupt corporations, the thieving bosses,
the impudent puppets in power" as the crowd erupted in wild cheers. His
wife stood with him, and he grinned, and he would remember the moment as long
as he lived.
Day was an orgy of election fraud, with repeaters voting in the names of "dogs,
Chinamen, and dead men." Tammany sluggers attacked Hearst’s poll watchers
and voters. Ballot boxes were stuffed, and many others, filled with Hearst ballots,
were simply tossed in the river. Hearst probably won the 1905 election as the
ballots went into the boxes, but lost it as they came out.
a new party, the Independence League, and prepared to run for governor in 1906.
It says a great deal about Hearst’s ambition and Murphy’s skill that
within a year of Hearst’s 1905 mayoral campaign, the Democrats came to
terms with a bolter who had published cartoons of Murphy in prisoner’s
stripes and nominated the publisher for governor of New York. Gov. Frank W.
Higgins, the Republican incumbent, was hopelessly tarred by scandal, stemming
from abuses in the state insurance department and public utility price gouging.
The Republican Party, with its amazing instinct for survival, dumped Higgins
and nominated the lawyer who had exposed the insurance scandals, Charles Evans
Hughes. "The Bearded Iceberg," as Roosevelt nicknamed him, was utterly
incorruptible, untainted by corporate wealth and without Hearst’s reputation
for radicalism. Hearst was beaten by 50,000 votes.
as if nothing had happened. The Independence League became a nationwide party
and at its national convention in 1908 Hearst was both chairman and keynote
speaker. He selected Thomas Hisgen, a Massachusetts businessman, for president,
and John Temple Graves, who was on Hearst’s payroll at the New York
American, for vice president.
the party’s campaign. He received far more publicity for his campaigning
on behalf of the Hisgen-Graves ticket than did the candidates themselves. His
speeches exposed Standard Oil’s corruption of the leaders of both major
parties, quoting extensively from letters stolen from the oil company’s
files at 26 Broadway. His oratory destroyed politicians’ careers, but obtained
few votes for his nominees. They polled just over 83,000 votes out of 15 million
for mayor again in 1909. He initially supported Judge William J. Gaynor until
the Democrats nominated Gaynor. Then he publicly demanded Gaynor reject the
nomination as Tammany-tainted. Gaynor, understandably, refused. In mid-October,
a new party, the Civic Alliance, nominated Hearst. Once more, the brass bands
and fireworks and massive publicity made him a factor but not a player. He polled
26 percent of the vote to come in third.
Randolph Hearst would never run for office again. He turned his energy to creating
and buying newspapers and eventually published 28 newspapers in 17 cities and
nine popular magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar,
Good Housekeeping, Town and Country and House Beautiful.
He produced motion pictures, including the first cliffhanger, The Perils
to power expressed through politics was channeled into his private life. Some
suggest his personal spending on beautiful things was a late-blooming mania,
reflecting his political frustration. This is nonsense: Willie had always spent
money. Perhaps politics had distracted him from the lust of the eye. If nothing
else, his 127-room castle at San Simeon proves the Chief lacked the good taste
and restraint of, say, King Ludwig of Bavaria. The man spent $15 million a year
on himself. He spent some $35 million on art and antiques in his lifetime.
life, Hearst wrote of his political career in New York, "Those were the
wonderful days and the happy achievements of youth… Life was not ‘one
damned thing after another’ then. It was one wonderful adventure after
To the Establishment
In May 1900,