Hearst, William Randolph


Hearst details his thoughts on outdoor issues relating to his St. Donat’s Castle in Wales, bought as a gift for Marion Davies, to his personal European representative


Autograph ID: 6502
Condition: Very good, “787” stamped at top left each page of Hearst’s letter to Head, 1″ clear plastic tape at right of 1st 5 sheets and on top left verso of 6th page, old staple holes at top right corner; no. “788” stamped at top left c
Description: “(1863-1951) American newspaper magnate, son of self-made millionaire George Hearst who became owner of The San Francisco Examiner as payment of a gambling debt. In 1887, he became its publisher, crusading for civic improvement and against municipal corruption, greatly increasing the paper’s circulation. Moving to New York City, he acquired The New York Journal. He engaged in a circulation war with Pulitzer’s New York World that led to the creation of “yellow journalism”, scandal-mongering, jingoism, and sensationalism. By the mid-1920s he had 28 newspapers, inc. his flagship, the San Francisco Examiner. He wielded enormous influence, whipping up public frenzy that pushed the US into war with Spain in 1898. NY US Rep. 1903-07, defeated for mayor and governor, unsuccessfully sought 1904 Democratic presidential nomination. In 1903, he married Millicent Willson but became intimate with actress Marion Davies (1897–1961), and from ca. 1919 lived openly with her in California. Beginning in 1919, he began to construct (and never completed) a spectacular castle on a 240,000 acre ranch at San Simeon, Calif., which he furnished with antiques, art, and entire rooms brought from the great houses of Europe. Among his other holdings were: Cosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazaar masgazines; Universal News and International News Service; King Features Syndicate; a film company, Cosmopolitan Productions; extensive real estate in NYC, California and Mexico; and timber and mining interests. The Hearst news empire reached a circulation and revenue peak ca. 1928, but the Depression and vast over-extension cost him control of his empire. Unable to service existing debts, the Hearst Corporation faced court-mandated reorganization in 1937. While WW II restored circulation and advertising revenues, his great days were over. His story inspired Orson Welles’ classic 1941 film, “Citizen Kane”; Hearst used all his resources and influence in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the film’s release.

5-1/2pp (six 7 x 5 1/4 white sheets) pencil draft ALS “Sincerely/WR”, St. Donat’s Castle, Wales, nd (ca. 10/20/36) to Miss (Alice M.) Head, asking her to have her contractor and engineer plan and contract to execute draining the space between the church and the sea at St. Donat’s. After that, he wants a competent landscaper to plan and contract for a garden. Hearst says Sir Charles (Allom) had a gardener look it over and maybe that man would do. It might be very attractive but first it has to be drained “and get rid of the pest of flies, gnats and mosquitoes which breed there, a pest expert would help.” Hearst also says there are too many trees on the grounds that interfere with views of sea and lawn and they should be cut out “in places to give glimpses of the channel – especially to the south east.” Finally, Hearst inquires as to getting more land, asking for a map “of the adjacent territory to see what of it is available.” He also says it is desirable to get rid of the cows and move the chickens which “make a dirty spot.” He suggests one farm be a chicken farm and “raise good chickens of definite breeds…that lay large fine eggs” but not too near the castle. The estate manager will attend to this when he is hired. He asks if it would not be wise to get the estate manager and housekeeper “while we are here so we will have a finger in the choice”. With 10/20/36 TLS of Alice M. Head on 10 x 8 “The National Magazine Co. Ltd. London” letterhead as Managing Director, to Hearst at St. Donat’s Castle, Llantwit Major, Wales. She replies to Hearst regarding draining land, will get a landscape gardener to submit designs to be sent to Hearst, is interviewing housekeepers, recommends Mr. Thompson as Estate Manager on a permanent basis. Hearst writes in pencil all over the in-typed portions of Head’s letter approving hiring the “conscientious” Mr. Thompson”, stressing importance of hiring the right housekeeper and what her role should be; lots of crossing out of sentences by Hearst.

Hearst saw photos of St. Donat’s Castle in his “Country Life” magazine. In 1925 he heard from Alice Head, editor of his British edition of “Good Housekeeping” , that it was for sale; he immediately cabled “Buy St. Donat’s Castle”. He took great pleasure in owning this small castle in Wales but as he began construction at San Simeon in 1918 and also had a “medieval” castle on Long Island, he did not visit it for 3 years; when he did, in July 1928, he took with him the most able and expensive architect, Sir Charles Allom. Hearst gave elaborate instructions for the Castle’s alterations and incorporation of medieval structures from elsewhere. With extensive additions, Hearst had all existing rooms brought to a suitable standard of comfort for rich Americans. When he visited St. Donat’s for a month or so in the summer he was joined by a large party, incl. Marion Davies and people he knew from the film, business and newspaper world from the US, England and Europe. Chefs and butlers supplied by Claridges and the Savoy were helpful in obtaining rare wines and food. He came to St. Donat’s again in 1930 and, in 1934, he went to visit Hitler before coming to St. Donat’s. St. Donat’s was put on the market in 1938 after Hearst occupied it for a bare 4 months and had spent an enormous amount on the Castle from the proceeds of his English magazines. While bought for Marion Davies, she actually sold it for $1M and gave the proceeds to Hearst then in financial difficulty. SIR CHARLES ALLOM (1865–1947) Eminent British decorator trained as an architect, knighted for his work on Buckingham Palace. Allom furnished the Henry Clay Frick House in Manhattan housing the Frick Collection. In 1925, when Hearst bought St. Donat’s, his choice to furnish it was Allom. After WW I, Allom bought a house on Madison Avenue in NYC which the firm White, Allom & Company occupied to 1933, Allom dividing his time between London and New York. In 1931, White, Allom was among the furnishers and decorators for the new Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue. ALICE MAUD HEAD (1886-1981) English journalist and businesswoman said to be the highest paid woman when she was editing the “Good Housekeeping” English edition and being Hearst’s European head. At one point she was secretary to Lord Alfred Douglas. She was employed as a typist on Hearst’s “Country Life” magazine. She was allowed to write short articles which fell in with her ambition to be a journalist. By 22 she was an editor of “Women at Home” for another publisher. She was chosen to create a British version of “Good Housekeeping” magazine and was thrust into notability when Hearst promoted her to be the Managing Director of “Good Housekeeping” although Hearst had never met her. She was allegedly the highest paid woman in Europe, Hearst’s personal European representative, and his close friend. He deputized her to make decisions on his behalf not just in editing but also buying for him St. Donat’s Castle in Wales (which he bought for Marion Davies), expensive art objects, and 3 giraffes for his zoo. She remained in charge until 1939. In 1941 she left the Hearst organization to be editor of “Homes and Gardens”. In 1942 she returned to “Country Life” as director and retired in 1949. In 1939, she wrote “It Could Never Have Happened”, a record of the distinguished people she met, meals she consumed, travels and purchases she made in the service of Hearst.

NOTE: darkening on top of image of Hearst’s letter is from lighting shadow; all pages are clear.”

Type: Letters

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