How far is a person willing to go to be the best? Will he sacrifice friends, family, even the lives of his countrymen? What makes someone that devoted to competition that they are willing to destroy everything that they " ve ever known, and quite possibly start a war in the process all to see that they " ve outsold there competition? These are the questions one must ask once you learn of the life's story of William Randolph Hearst. From his news empire that included over 2 dozen major newspapers in 15 cities (Swanberg) to his more then slightly warped sense of moral propriety, Hearst's life led him into the position where he escalated an international dispute into a war with one of Europe's colonial powers. William Randolph Hearst was born on April 29, 1863, in San Francisco, California, to George Hearst and Phoebe Apperson Hearst. George Hearst was a self-made multimillionaire miner and rancher who spent much of his young life in Franklin County, Missouri in the 1820's. Growing up he received very little in the way of formal education but he did learn a lot about the so-called 'lay of the land,' particularly in regards to mining. In fact, legend has it that local Indians referred to him as the 'boy that the earth talk to.' (Loe) The Senior Hearst quickly made himself wealthy through his investment in mining operations in the United States.
Doing all of the research into these sites himself he owned some of the largest claims in the nation, "including the Comstock Lode in Nevada, the Ontario silver mine in Utah, the Homestake gold mine in South Dakota and the Anaconda copper mine in Montana" (Loe). The Comstock, Homestake and Anaconda claims would become three of the largest mining discoveries in American history. (Swanberg) This sudden success story was an inspiration to his son and his overbearing mother constantly told William of his father's great successes. It was Williams Mother who became the fiery driving force in the young man's life, constantly pressuring him to succeed and be better then all others. While George Hearst was running about the American West securing mine space, land grants, and buying hundreds of acres of grazing lands for what would be his second empire, cattle, Phoebe was prepping her son for a life of wealth and privilege. In 1873 she organized a European tour to educate him in all of the "refined arts" (Nasaw).
This "Grand Tour" took over a year; during which time Phoebe took her son to visit castles, museums and various cultural centers. This trip would prove to be a pivotal inspiration for William's later endeavor constructing his fabulous Hearst Castle, the seat of his national empire. (Loe) Young Hearst showed the vicious ambition that his mother had instilled in his formative years followed him into St. Paul's Preparatory School in Concord, New Hampshire, an exclusive school that his mother had picked for him, and finally into Harvard College where the young Hearst found what would become the passion of his life- publishing. (Nasaw) William was a very popular young man at Harvard. The excessive allowance sent by his mother each month allowed him to wine and dine his friends and to keep many young, working class women on his arm.
He was a member of the "Hasty Pudding" acting society and later became the business manager of the Harvard Lampoon. His financial stewardship of the group was brilliant and in a move that would signal the beginning of his life in publishing, he increased circulation and business advertising well over 300% (Nasaw). Although he was expelled from Harvard for poor grades his life did not stop. During his time at the Lampoon, his father found himself in possession of a Newspaper, The San Francisco Examiner, which he won at a card game. When William learned of this he begged his father to allow him to run the paper, insisting he could make it profitable and powerful. It would become his chance to match his father's successes and make his mother proud.
(INSERT HERE) He went to New York to study the Theater, The New York Press, ruled over by Hearst's idol and future rival Joseph Pulitzer, and a verity of young actresses. Young Hearst was fascinated with the work of Pulitzer and his two-penny paper, seeing it's sensational investigative journalistic ideals, cheap production cost, and mass-appeal tactics as inspiration for a winning business plan. When he returned to California, his father was running as a Democrat for the Governorship of the state of California and wanted his son to come in and take over the family business while he was running the state. While George had hoped William would manage all of the mining and ranching holdings that he had amassed, his only son wanted to become the proprietor of the Examiner and an elderly George Hearst relented and relinquished control of the paper to him. (Miller) His son used is family to get the money to completely modernize the paper, picking up a first class staff of writers (mostly by hiring them out from under other papers noses, a strategy he would use his whole life) and starting one of the most sensational editorial boards in the city. Hearst appealed to the working class of the city by being staunchly Anti-Railroad companies and unwaveringly Pro-Unions.
When remarking on this strategy later Hearst would remark that he was "Giving the people what they wanted and being paid for it" (Nasaw) Although his father's run at the governor's mansion was a failure, his son's paper was quickly becoming a success. Finally gaining a little of his parents approval for his work on the paper. He quickly turned the paper into the #1 paper in the city by making every news story a sensational one. His competitors tried to keep up but soon Hearst was undoubtedly the king of the San Francisco media market.
By 1890 Hearst was ready to take on his old idol and the inspiration for his success, Joseph Pulitzer. I wasn't until 1895 that Hearst actually entered the market for the media in New York by purchasing the failing New York Journal and proceeded to go head to head with the unimpeachable lord of the newspaper, Joseph Pulitzer. Hearst started his little war with Pulitzer by doing exactly what he did in San Francisco, he lured all of Pulitzer top writers to joining his staff taking every last one of Pulitzer's top writers by promising them huge salaries and multi-year contracts, something Pulitzer refused to do (Milton). Hearst started putting either high society or gruesome crimes on the front page of every paper he sold. Stories about the decedent lives of the Manhattan Social Elite and stories of beating, drowning and vicious double murders were what sold papers Hearst had learned as the head of the San Francisco examiner and they worked even more effectively with the Pulitzer staff and with the eager New York consumers. Soon Pulitzer and Hearst were in a pitched battle, each one matching story for story the attention grabbing headlines that would eventually lead to war.
Another of the strategies that Hearst would take that would lead to the fervor just before the Spanish American war was the loss of the last shreds of political objectivity. Hearst realized that the bulk of the people in New York State were avid Democrats but none of the papers were willing to upset the Republicans who had held sway in New York since the Civil War. Hearst saw an opportunity and created a template for a political story- start with corrupt officialdom, write about the victimized public, and cap it all off with the newspaper coming in as the rescuing hero. (Miller) The Peak of his political opportunism was in 1896, when his Journal was the only large New York paper to support firebrand Democrat-Populist William Jennings Bryan for President.
Circulation soared to 1. 5 million, a journalistic record. (Nasaw) this set the stage for all of his competitors to use these same tactics throwing objectivity and often truth out the window all in an effort to capture more readers then there rivals. Pulitzer in particular took to this brand of journalism and began to run increasingly more sensational and less journalistic stories. Soon the way that newspapers were printed was another battlefield. Hearst had access to hundreds of thousands of acres of trees thanks to his father's land deals was able to lower the price of his papers to one penny, a move that his competitors were forced to follow.
(Miller) And when Hearst started to be able to print in a lasting color for his comic strips the other's followed as well. The only color they could print in at first was Yellow, giving rise to the term "Yellow Journalism" (Nasaw). From the very beginning of Hearst's chairmanship of the journal Cuba had played a central role in the papers sensational efforts. One of the First major stories that the paper used was the Cuban Revolution of 1895.
Coverage of the insurrection was sharply biased, with articles, cartoons, and headlines that promoted the Cuban cause and called for the United States to intervene, calling the Spanish "Brutal Dictators forcing the Cubans to endure slavery under there oppressive regime" and "foul torturers." (Miller). The Cuban situation continued to escalate and Hearst continued to publish stories Greatly exaggerating the situation. As went Hearst so went the rest of the national papers. Soon the Cuban situation was elevated from a small rebel force within the nation to a countrywide revolt including massive pitched battles and the dastardly actions of the Spanish imperialist overlords.
With the Revolt in the Philippians, The newspapers, led of course by Hearst and Pulitzer made a mad dash for stories about the plight of the people against the same dastardly Spanish that they had been writing about in Cuba. (Miller). At the beginning Cuban crisis, Hearst had the villain of his grand play made in his mind- Governor General Valeria no Weyler, the man who the Spanish had brought in in 1895 to put down the Cuban revolt. With his large mustache and protruding lower jaw, General Weyler was the perfect villain. He was portrayed viciously in cartoons, editorials and news stories as a savage inhumane beast, as the most bloodthirsty butcher that had ever entered this hemisphere.
Hearst's own sensationalistic style went right to work on the General, like in this quote from the New York Journal in February 1896, "Weyler is a fiendish despot, a brute, a devastator of haciendas, pitiless, cold, an exterminator of men. There is nothing to prevent his carnal brain from inventing torture and infamies of bloody debauchery." (Nasaw) Every Story was a bad story and every bad story was made worse by Hearst and his colleges. The worse the news was the more papers were sold, breaking one record after another after another for most papers sold in a day. (Miller) Even congressmen got involved, with several of them using quotes from the Hearst newspapers as campaign points and saying that they would "personally" look into the suffering of the Cuban people as reported by the Papers. Hearst's most famous quote to one of his artists "You supply the pictures and I'll supply the war" were probably never uttered, mostly because in the conversation Hearst supposedly asked the artist to remain in Cuba when factually he returned to the United States shortly after supposedly having that conversation and Hearst was not known for forgiving those who disobeyed them.
When William McKinley was inaugurated there was so much press coverage and congressional support that he was forced to get involved. However the actions he took were not quite to the likening of Hearst, Pulitzer and others. President McKinley believed in consensus building and diplomacy and he called on Spain "to find a humane and peaceful solution to the insurrection" (O'Tool). To Hearst this was almost the same as the government doing nothing. Long, drawn-out negotiations, handled civilly were not going to sell newspapers. He hyped everything McKinley said, spinning it into an ever-escalating situation.
(O'Toole). Hearst's position was strengthened later that year when General Weyler implemented the first wave of the Spanish 'Reconcentration Policy' that sent thousands of Cubans into what we would now call concentration camps. Under Weyler's policy, the rural population had eight days to move into designated camps located in fortified towns; any person who failed to obey was shot. The housing in these areas was typically abandoned, decaying, roofless, and virtually uninhabitable.
Due to this move, the food production capabilities of the nation were decimated. (Miller) During the month of December in 1897 the island of Cuba was struck with Famine. This was the best bad news Hearst had heard in a long time and he intended to use it to the best of his abilities. His reporter's stories of the "horrific famine and disease in Cuba" (Milton) prompted a response from the United States government. President McKinley was "deeply disturbed" by the reports and by the effects of Spain's reconcentration policy, which caused the famine. He made a public appealed for humanitarian aid for starving Cubans.
Hearst ran the appeals on page one each day, along with sketches of the poor starveling people of the nation and on Christmas Eve ran the President's appeals in an effort to incite public sympathy. (Nasaw) Hearst's reports of the Death in Cuba were partially true and partially made up. The facts ofthe famine and the horrific actions of the re concentration policies were mostly accurate but almost all of the individual stories about the famine and disease were made up. Stories of officers in the Spanish army kicking small children begging for scraps outside of there homes were completely false, considering that all of these children would be in the camps.
Other tales of cruelty were made up, especially about General Weyler. (Miller). Other Tails were romanticized to the point of being almost like novels. Reporters like Richard Harding Davis were encouraged to make their stories about anything as interesting as possible.
Davis was Hearst's main man in Cuba or as one book put it "Richard Harding Davis was a brilliant writer, but, more than that, he was an incredible character. Hearst paid him three thousand dollars a month plus expenses, which was absolutely phenomenal." (Nasaw) One story described the young Adolfo Rodriguez, sentenced to die for joining the Cuban rebellion. The officer of the firing squad whipped up his sword; the men leveled their rifles; the sword dropped; and the men fired. The Cuban sank on his side without a struggle or sound, and did not move again.
At that moment the sun shot up suddenly from behind them and the whole world seemed to wake to welcome the day. But the figure of the young Cuban was asleep in the wet grass, his arms still tightly bound behind him, and the blood from his breast sinking into the soil that he had tried to free. (Milton) This article neglects to say that the young man killed several officers and Innocent Cubans who were working with Spanish in an attack on Havana or that he was executed after sunrise so his lovely prose was highly inaccurate, still Davis continued his "great work" in Cuba to the fascination of the American public. (Miller) This is not to say that he had good journalists on his staff, in fact his people were so good that they found out that The President had donated five thousand dollars anonymously to the red cross to help the Cubans (Miller) and the details of the Cuban Concentration Camps were almost entirely accurate, thanks too a good staff. However the way that these facts were presented, as sensational attention grabbers, didn't make the facts the center of the story, they made the commentary the center of attention. (Nasaw) But perhaps Hearst's greatest ploy was named Evangelina Cisneros, a convent-educated, Cuban teenager, imprisoned by the Spanish in Havana.
Seemingly picked at random by Hearst to act as a model of the "Plight of the Cubans" and set up a international campaign to get prominent women all over the world to send telegrams to Spain demanding the release of Ms. Cisneros, publishing more names each week including Julia Ward Howe the author of the battle hymn of the republic, famous movie stars and even President McKinley's mother. All this continued to sell newspapers, but it didn't affect Cisneros' release. She continued to languish in this Cuban prison. This was when Hearst tried his riskiest and most involved foray- an escape from a Cuban prison.
Hearst arranged for a "handsome" mercenary by the name of Karl Decker to arrange this escape. With the vast amounts of money Hearst gave him he rented the house next door to the prison and put a plank across to the window of the cell where she was. When night fell he, with a team of well-armed men were to walk across the plank and brake in and rescue her. (Miller) Hearst made a cold calculated maneuver in this. If the rescue attempt fails it's more bad news for him to publish (with exclusive first hand accounts), if it succeeded then he would be able to show the united states that his newspaper cared enough to break the victim that everyone knew from his paper out of jail. Luckily for Evangelina, the rescue was a success.
And Hearst's circulation went up. When Hearst wanted an account written he had his master writer Davis make-up some lines from Karl Decker and ran them on page one- "She reached out her hands to us with many little, glad cries, rippling out in whispered Spanish benedictions for our efforts to save her." (Nasaw) When Hearst finally brought her out of Cuba he called upon all of his theatrical genius he had worked on in Harvard and arranged for a play that would be acted by real people. He sailed Evangelina triumphantly into New York Harbor, and arranged for a dozen public appearances. She was feted at balls at the Waldorf, dinners at Delmonico, brought to Washington in the company of William Randolph Hearst.
In Washington Hearst used ties with his father's former colleges in the senate to arrange for Evangelina to meet with president McKinley. McKinley had no choice but to play his part in Hearst's little play, as if he refused to meet with the young woman he would have been vilified in a hundred editorials as uncaring about the Cuban population. In a page one article on the meeting Evangelina is quoted as saying-I thought over what I would say to the President, that the women and children of Cuba must look to the great United States for protection. Then he came in.
My poor speech for Cuba was forgotten; but I looked into the kind face of the President and what I thought I saw there made me content. (Milton) America was made the victorious savior of an innocent young woman and as always Hearst's circulation went up. Growing U. S. awareness of the humanitarian crisis in Cuba challenged President McKinley's commitment to solve the Cuban conflict though diplomacy. Pressured by the public and the press to be more aggressive, McKinley labeled the Spanish re concentration policy as 'extermination,' and threatened to 'intervene with force.' Although the President did not formally call for military intervention until April 1898, his 1897 words seem to show that he was obviously thinking about it at this point.
(Nasaw) On February 9, 1898, the contents of a seized Spanish letter caused an international scandal that fueled anti-Spanish and pro-war feelings in the United States, and caused another round of circulation battles between the major papers. While in Washington in the middle of December, Spanish ambassador Enrique Dupuy de L^ome wrote a personal letter to his friend Jos'e Canalejas who was in Cuba. The letter contained these derogatory comments about President McKinley and his policies concerning Cuba 'It shows once more that McKinley is weak and catering to the rabble and, besides, a low politician who desires to leave a door open to himself and to stand well with the jingo's of his party.' (Miller) Somehow, Dupuy de L^ome's letter fell into the hands of Cuban rebels who then sent the letter to Cuban Junta abroad. Cuban expatriates took the letter to U.
S. Secretary of State William R. Day and exposed Dupuy de L^ome's insults. New York Journal owner William Randolph Hearst published the letter on February 9, with the headline 'The Worst Insult to the United States in Its History.' (Nasaw) Once Hearst published the letter, the news of the insults filled newspapers across the country, and the story became a true international scandal -- the U. S. public was outraged, the President demanded an apology, and the ambassador resigned.
In the end, the Dupuy de L^ome letter scandal left Spain further demonized by Hearst and compatriots all in an effort to increase circulation, pushing the United States closer to war. (Miller) When an explosion sank the Maine and killed hundreds of sailors in the Havana Harbor on 15 February 1898, journalists, including those from the Journal, recommended caution in speculating the cause of the disaster, fearing public outrage and rioting. (Nasaw) When he learned of the explosion, he called the Journal city desk and asked the editor on duty what other stories were to be played on the front page. When the editor replied "just the other big news," Hearst exploded that there was no other big news and the sinking of the Maine would be the focus of the paper for an indefinite period. The Journal, the Examiner and the newly purchased Chicago Daily Tribune all began to beat the war drums loudly, even going so far as offering $50, 000 for anyone who could bring the person responsible for the attack to justice (although Hearst never expected it to be claimed) (O'Toole). Soon Hearst papers were proclaiming headlines like "Destruction Of War-Ship Maine Was Work Of An Enemy", "War? Sure!"Crisis At Hand!"Cabinet In Session, Growing Belief Of Spanish Treachery!" (Miller) and of course Hearst's circulation went up.
The only major hold out on the path to war were the conservative republicans in congress and the business community. The great majority in those groups considered this all a development of the Yellow Press and tried to dismiss it as such, although in private they worried about the problem that Hearst and his allies were conveying. On March 17, 1898 these groups were finally convinced that action was necessary. Vermont Senator Redfield Proctor (1831-1908) delivered one of the most significant speeches of the time. After an observation visit to Cuba, Senator Proctor returned to the United States and told Congress about Cuba's bleak situation: I went to Cuba with a strong conviction that the picture had been overdrawn. I could not believe that out of a population of one million six hundred thousand, two hundred thousand had died within these Spanish forts...
My inquiries were entirely outside of sensational sources... What I saw I cannot tell so that others can see it. It must be seen with one's own eyes to be realized... To me the strongest appeal is not the barbarity practiced by Weyler, nor the loss of the Maine...
but the spectacle of a million and a half people, the entire native population of Cuba, struggling for freedom and deliverance from the worst misgovernment of which I ever had knowledge... (Miller) Congressional Republicans and the U. S. business community took Senator Proctor's words, unlike those of the sensationalist press, seriously. Proctor, a former Civil War colonel, Vermont governor, and businessman, was highly respected and trusted by U. S.
conservatives. When Senator Proctor spoke, the pro-war feeling among the U. S. business community grew and the United States moved even closer to war. Hearst Reveled in the fact that the last group to oppose his methods had finally come around to support the positions he was writing about. He ran testimonials from the greatest of his opposition and used them to support his own stories.
The United States would declare war at the next most convenient interval. That Interval came on March 28, 1898 when the United States Naval Court of Inquiry found that the Maine was destroyed by a submerged mine. Although blame was never formally placed on the Spanish, Hearst's papers wrote it differently. (Miller) in fact there was very little information at the time to suggest that the government of Spain had anything to do with the explosion despite the circumstantial evidence and the fact of the explosion. (Nasaw) Recent research suggests that the explosion may have been an accident, involving a spontaneous combustion fire in the coal bunker.
Some conspiracy theorists have even suggested that Hearst may have set the explosion in order to precipitate a war, although I have found no concrete or even much circumstantial evidence to support this. (O'Toole) While historians will never know exactly what happened the night the Maine went down, it is clear that the incident was one of the ways that Hearst increased his circulation to legendary levels and almost as a side note to him, finally plunged the United States into War with Spain. (Miller) The Story of William Randolph Hearst and the Spanish American War is the story of his life- success at any cost and any expense. Do I think that he set out to cause the war to increase his newspapers circulation? Not quite. Rather then create a war to increase circulation he increased circulation and in the process helped to cause a war. Hearst was not interested in the Cuban Plight, international politics or even the individuals he had people write about but he was interested in his national standing and in his paper's beating the others and this was the best way to do it.
Although it may be an exaggeration to claim that Hearst and the other yellow journalists started the war, it is fair to say that the press turned what had been overlooked since Grant into a major international affair. Without sensational headlines and stories about Cuban affairs, the mood for Cuban intervention may have been very different. In the end the escalation of the crisis was a simple drive to be the best, to beat everyone else and to prove to the world (and his mother) that William Randolph Hearst was a success in his own right. Deal, Donald H...
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