Chapter Four

Cissy’s Circle

Cissy Patterson & William Randolph Hearst“I enjoyed seeing you, and seeing your brother, who, by the sheer power of his sincerity and simplicity seems to exercise such an influence on the human race,” Hearst-chain editor and columnist Arthur Brisbane wrote Cissy on June 10, 1930. As William Randolph Hearst had begun to reconsider his stance on relinquishing control of his Washington Herald, Brisbane had met with the Pattersons in New York for a discussion exploring the possibility of Cissy’s leasing the paper. “I have a terribly fine trader for you, from no less a person than W.R. You must have taken a lot of trouble with him last night,” Brisbane revealed ten days later, on the morning after the lavish dinner-dance that Millicent and William Randolph Hearst had thrown at their (or, more accurately, her) home at 137 Riverside Drive in Manhattan, in honor of Dr. Julio Prestes, president-elect of Brazil. Another idea had occurred to Brisbane regarding his correspondent’s publishing career: “How would you like to be the co-editor of the Washington Herald with a modest salary and no expense? That would be better than being owner with no salary and a gigantic loss.”

Although Hearst had turned down Cissy’s earlier offers to buy or lease his Washington Herald, Brisbane’s most recent suggestion had eroded some his reservations. “If she wants to go into the newspaper business in Washington,” the Chief ventured, “tell her I’ll give her a job.” On July 8, Hearst himself wired Cissy,  “I WOULD BE DELIGHTED AND HONORED TO HAVE YOU EDIT HERALD HOPE YOU WILL BE AS MUCH PLEASED AS I AM.”  The next day, Arthur Brisbane followed up with a letter outlining the terms. For the next three years she would be under contract to edit the paper “in accordance with the views of Mr. Hearst, the proprietor.” The Hearst organization would pay her pay her $10,000 per year plus one-third of all net profits, and provide her with an expense account of $200 per week. “The ‘hiring’ is rather a formality,” Brisbane would explain to Democratic presidential nominee Franklin Delano Roosevelt two years later, “since each trip to see Mr. Hearst in California in her private [train] car costs her as much as she earns in a year.” Nevertheless, as of August 1, 1930, she was to become the United States’ only woman editor-in-chief of a major metropolitan daily newspaper. At the age of forty-eight, Cissy would embark on the Washington publishing career she had long dreamt of—quite literally with a vengeance.