George Hearst was 26 years old when he inherited his father’s debt-ridden farm in Missouri in 1846. But he noticed some people nearby were making money with a lead mine. Hearst could barely read, but he got some books on geology and became an expert.
When the California gold rush got underway, Hearst was ready. Perhaps because he knew what he was doing, he found gold – lots of it. By 1857, he had developed his first large scale mine, the LeCompton near Nevada City, California. He took profits from there to the Comstock Lode in the state of Nevada where miners were taking the gold from black ore and throwing the silver away. Hearst focused on the silver.
Hearst was also focused on efficiency and he turned the Comstock into a showpiece of cutting-edge mining technology. Later he went to San Francisco and made more money in real estate. He made even more money as a consultant to various mining interests. And then hit paydirt again at a mine in Utah.
Hearst got interested in politics, and eventually served as a Senator from California. He died in office leaving his widow and son filthy rich.
The TV show “Deadwood” on HBO portrayed Hearst as an evil robber baron who had people shot right and left. The real Hearst was tough, all right, but he was all business. When he had a problem, he called in lawyers, not gunfighters. The results were the same.
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