Archives Directory for the History of Collecting in America

Hearst, George, 1820-1891

print view
role Collector
dates 1820-1891
city San Francisco
sex M
historical notes George Hearst, born 1820 in Franklin County, Missouri, had little formal education but educated himself in geology and prospecting.

His talent for scoping out the "lay of the land" paid off in some of the most important mining claims in the United States. The Comstock Lode in Nevada, the Homestake gold mine in South Dakota and the Anaconda copper mine in Montana would become three of the largest mining discoveries in American history. As a rancher and prospector Hearst continually acquired large portions of land throughout the United States, especially in California and the West.

In 1863 Hearst married Phoebe Apperson, a teacher from his home state. Moving to San Francisco, Phoebe gave birth to their only child, William Randolph Hearst, in 1863. George purchased the 48,000 acre Piedras Blancas Ranch at San Simeon in 1865, adding the adjoining Santa Rosa and San Simeon ranches later. During his lifetime the ranches were used as a family retreat. In 1873 Phoebe took her young son William on a grand tour of Europe where the two spent more than a year visiting castles, museums, and various cultural centers.

This trip would prove to be a pivotal inspiration for William's later endeavor constructing Hearst Castle at San Simeon.

George Hearst was elected to the United States senate in 1887 and the couple relocated to Washington D.C. Soon after arriving in the capital, he acquired the San Francisco Examiner as payment for a gambling debt. When his son William asked to become the proprietor of the Examiner instead of assuming control of the Hearst mining and ranching businesses, George Hearst relinquished control of the paper to him and Phoebe became heir to the Hearst mines and ranches.

After George's death in 1891, Phoebe returned to California and renewed construction on a residence she called Hacienda del Pozo de Verona in Pleasanton, California that had been started by her son a few years earlier. For the project, Mrs. Hearst commissioned architect Julia Morgan who would later design Hearst Castle for William.

Dedicated to education throughout her life, Phoebe Apperson Hearst became a generous benefactress to educational institutions and individuals financing a school for the training of kindergarten teachers, founding the first free kindergartens in the United States and the National Congress of Mothers (a forerunner of the National Council of Parents and Teachers better known today as the PTA), and endowing scholarships for women students at the University of California at Berkeley. She was the first woman Regent of the University of California, serving actively on the board from 1897 until her death in 1919.

During these years she funded an international architectural competition for a master plan for the University, built the Hearst Memorial Mining Building and Hearst Hall, and was instrumental in developing the anthropology department and museums, the medical college, the agricultural college, and Lick Observatory among other things. Phoebe was an avid collector of art and antiquities and generously shared her purchases among museums and universities throughout the world but especially at the University of California.

According to The Art Treasures of America, Hearst owned works by Leo. Ansiglioni, A. Candida, G. Castagnola, Hugo Charlemont, H. H. Couldroy, H. H. Moore, E. W. Perry, Ad. Schreyer, Jules Tavernier, Toft, and E. Wayne.
of activity
updated 03/22/2024 12:09:28
Search Frick Art Reference Library Catalog
Search Photoarchive
Search Worldcat
Search Library of Congress Name Authority File (LCNAF)
Search Virtual International Authority File (VIAF)
Search Wikidata Entry
Archives/Repository Collection Title Collection Details
The Bancroft Library
University of California
George and Phoebe Apperson Hearst papers, 1849-1926 see details...
The Bancroft Library
University of California
Photographs from the George and Phoebe Apperson Hearst papers [graphic]. see details...
The Bancroft Library
University of California
William Randolph Hearst papers, 1874-1951 (bulk 1927-1947). see details...
The Bancroft Library
University of California
Hearst family papers, [ca. 1885-1957]. see details...

see also:
Hearst, Phoebe Apperson, 1842-1919
Hearst, William Randolph, 1863-1951