Hearst and the Homestake Mine

While William Randolph Hearst is well known the world over as the great media magnate, a father of yellow journalism, and inspiration for Citizen Kane, seedlings of his pivotal role as a news baron can be traced back to his father, George Hearst, and the Homestake Mine.

The Homestake Mine is located in Lead, South Dakota. The gold deposit that would later create the largest and deepest mine in North America was discovered in 1876 as part of the Black Hills Gold Rush.  While the gold proved to be low grade, the mind eventually produced 39.8 million ounces of gold while open, and turned heads at the time.

A year after the discovery, George Hearst and two partners bought the claim and began a massive mining operation, even selling shares on the New York Stock Exchange.[1]

Hearst’s management of the mine was one of considerable scandal. In the course of accruing adjacent claims to the mine, one of Hearst’s employees killed a holder who wouldn’t sell. (The employee was later acquitted when the lead witness went missing.) The unfavorable coverage he was receiving from local newspapers spurred him to buy newspapers in Deadwood as a means of managing public opinion.[2] His later acquisition of the San Francisco Chronicle became the foundation of the Hearst publishing empire, and the use of news to manage public opinion, a common fallback.

1 The Homestake Mine shares would become one of the longest lived stocks on the New York Stock Exchange.

2 Some of these stories may sound familiar. This may be particularly the case for followers of the Deadwood TV series, a fictionalized drama of Hearst’s pursuits at this time.

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