George Hearst was born and raised in Franklin County, Missouri in 1820. 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 with regard to mining. He observed copper mining, which was well established in Missouri. According to legend local Indians referred to him as the “boy that earth talks to.”
Despite many hardships, his tenacity, talent, and ambition yielded brilliant results. George established himself in as a powerful miner and rancher in the Western United States. A self-made millionaire, he owned interest in some of the most important claims in the U.S., 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. The Comstock, Homestake and Anaconda claims would become three of the largest mining discoveries in American history. His business acumen was shown in his understanding of what is now called “vertical integration,” which links all phases of production from beginning to end.
As a rancher and prospector, George Hearst continually acquired large portions of land throughout the United States, especially in California and the West. One acquisition was 48,000 acre Piedra Blanca Rancho at San Simeon in 1865. He later purchased the adjoining Santa Rosa and San Simeon Ranchos. George Hearst would use this land throughout his life as a place to retreat with his family for lavish camping trips.
In 1862, George, at the age of 41, married Phoebe Apperson Hearst. In 1863, the couple had their first and only child, William Randolph.
Later in life George Hearst served as a United States Senator from California from 1887 until his death in 1891. During this time he acquired the small San Francisco Examiner as a repayment for a gambling debt. Although he had little interest in the publishing business this would prove to be an important event in the Hearst legacy. While he had hoped William would manage the family’s mining and ranching holdings, his only son wanted to become the proprietor of the Examiner. An elderly George Hearst relented and relinquished control of the paper to him.
The Senator died in Washington, D.C. in 1891.