Hearst, Phoebe Apperson, 1842-1919

Alternative names
Birth 1842-12-03
Death 1919-04-13

Biographical notes:

Hearst was an art collector and patron; Pleasanton and San Francisco, Calif. She was the mother of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst. Among the artists to whom she provided financial support was the Swedish born painter and etcher Carl Oscar Borg (1879-1947). Borg, who settled in Los Angeles in 1903, specialized in depicting Native Americans and landscapes of California and the Southwest.

From the description of Pheobe A. Hearst letters to Carl O. Borg, 1909-1919. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 79640750

Phoebe Apperson Hearst was the mother of William Randolph Heast (1863-1951) noted American sensationalist newspaper and magazine publisher.

From the description of Letter, 1913. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122630157

From the guide to the Phoebe Apperson Hearst letter, 1913, (L. Tom Perry Special Collections)

Biographical Sketch

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 "layof 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.

From the guide to the George and Phoebe Apperson Hearst papers, 1849-1926, (The Bancroft Library.)


Loading Relationships


Ark ID:


  • Philanthropists
  • Art patrons
  • Correspondence
  • Women millionaires--Correspondence, reminiscences, etc
  • Material Types
  • Women millionaires--California--Biography
  • Women millionaires--California--Correspondence


not available for this record


  • California (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • California--San Francisco (as recorded)