William Randolph Hearst Additional Biography


(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

Hearst, son of silver baron and U.S. senator George Hearst, grew up in wealth and opulence. Expelled from Harvard, he asked his father to give him the San Francisco Examiner as a business opportunity, and transformed the Examiner into a sensationalizing, mass-appeal newspaper. Always on the alert for stories that stimulated readers with innuendo and emotional titillation, Hearst increased the entertainment content of his newspapers by adding graphic illustrations, peep-show photography, cartoons, comic strips, and such features as Robert Ripley’s “Believe It or Not.” Sensational human-interest stories were printed in bold type, front page.

Hearst played a prominent role in the outbreak of the Spanish- American War. During the Cuban resistance to Spanish rule, he used Evangelina Cisneros, an eighteen-year-old imprisoned by the Spanish in Cuba, to create a heroine known as “the Flower of Cuba.” Hearst bribed Spanish guards to “rescue” Cisneros, and he brought her to the U.S. After the sinking of the battleship Maine in Havana Harbor, Hearst’s newspapers accused the Spanish of treachery, fanning the fires of war that finally led to a U.S. war on the Spanish Empire.

By the 1930’s, Hearst’s publishing empire included twenty-six dailies in eighteen cities, covering 14 percent of the daily U.S. circulation and 23 percent of all Sunday deliveries. His strongest papers were in San Francisco and Los...

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