George Hearst, who came to California from Missouri in 1850, did make his fortune in mining, though not in California. Investing in gold stocks in the Homestake Mine in South Dakota and the Anaconda Mine in Montana, he soon became a millionaire hundreds of times over.

As repayment for a gambling debt, he purchased an ailing little San Francisco newspaper called the Examiner, and in 1887 turned it over to his son, William Randolph Hearst, who had been expelled from Harvard. Capitalizing on lurid headlines, the younger Hearst built a publishing empire that thrives to this day. William Randolph’s monument to excess, Hearst San Simeon, with its collections of pillaged European art, remains one of California’s most visited tourist destinations.

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