William was born in 1863 in San Francisco, California, to multimillionaire George Hearst. In 1872 he began a decade of private education that would see him enroll at 14 schools, and being expelled from 12 of them (one closed). In 1882 he spent a year at Harvard, before he walked out of the school in protest against the scrapping of a promised third library.
Hearst subsequently returned to California, where after much pleading with his father, set up the San Francisco Weekly Journal. The Journal was very popular and brought him a strong income. By 1885 Hearst had several similar projects appearing in all the major cities in the so called "New West".
In 1891 his father died, and Hearst received ine-half of all his father's estate (approximately $15 million). Hearst used this to rapidly expand his already large newspaper group. Purchasing eight of the ten highest selling papers in the US. By the turn of the century Hearst had trebled his inheritance.
The Hearst empire further expanded in 1912, when he gave funding to D.W. Griffith to found Griffith studios. Hearst demanded 1/3 of all profits Griffith ever made.
Hearst purchased his last paper in 1928 and from then on set about maintaining control of his vast wealth.
Hearst inherited his father's Bourbon democratic political beliefs, and funded the democratic campaigns in 1892, 1896 and 1900. In 1900 his influence is credited with winning the election for Dewey and Hill.
In 1904 his papers rabidly supported Parker's bid for the presidency. However in 1908, Hearst switched sides. Becoming increasingly weary of the unpopularity of the democratic administration, he funded Roosevelt's bid for the White House. He continued to support Roosevelt and his republican successors of Pershing, Hoover and Hughes. However by 1932, he could see the republican government had too run out of steam.
From 1933 until 1940 Hearst's media empire gave unwavering support to FDR and his policies, publicly ebbing him on to serve a third term. When FDR refused, Hearst pulled the plug. Hearst's newspapers remained strangely quiet throughout the 1940 campaign, although they were occasionally sympathetic to the republicans.
When TR Jr. entered the White House, the Hearst empire swinged back into action, supporting him and the war effort, and later supporting the Willkie and Dewey presidencies. From 1948 onwards Hearst, still personally in control of his empire, grew increasingly tired and his papers reflected this, becoming increasingly bland and unpoliticised.
Hearst inherited the mining towns of Hearstville, Washoe and Reno from his father. Between 1897 and 1920 Hearst invested highly in the towns. Hearst encouraged people to stay, long after the last silver deposits were mined in 1914. In 1924 Hearst began a vast project to merge the three towns into the city of Reno and by 1927 Reno had become the largest city in Nevada. Hearst used his wealth and personal influence to establish cinemas in the city and create it the "Hollywood of the Mid West". By 1930 Reno had a population of 50,000.
Hearst bought 15 sq mi of California coast in 1913, and set about developing it into his dream home. He hired a team of world renowned architects and artists to build a vast personal palace. By 1920 the palace was more or less complete and soon became a hub for American celebrity and the wealthy. Hearst entertained people from President Hoover to Douglas Ullman.