Bennett Jr., James Gordon (1841-1918) USA

Category: OWNERS

James Gordon BennettJames Gordon Bennett, Jr. was the son of James Gordon Bennett, the founder and publisher of the New York Herald. The son was groomed to be publisher all his life, and as sole owner and publisher, he busied himself throughout his long life in finding ways to spend the largest assured income in America (with the possible exception of William B. Astor and commodore Vanderbilt) for the benefit of the paper and himself. Perhaps not in that order.

James Gordon BennettConsidered a dandy, a tyrant, and the first example of the horrors of the Gilded Age, he was also a devoted newspaperman, whose every foible and deed of bravado were designed to make if not headlines, at least good copy for his daily newspaper. And most important to us here, Bennett was a consummate amateur sportsman in the old sense of the word, a lover of the game. He was a great yachtsman and prominent member and commodore of this club, as the artifacts assembled around this room will show.

In 1861, Bennett volunteered his newly built schooner yacht, Henrietta, for the U.S. Revenue Marine Service during the Civil War. At the same time, Bennett was commissioned as a third lieutenant in the Revenue Marine Service. On March 3, 1862, Bennett commanded the Henrietta as part of the fleet which captured Fernandina, Florida. Bennett and the Henrietta returned to civilian life in New York in May 1862.

In 1866, he won the first trans-oceanic yacht race. The race was between three American yachts, the Vesta, the Fleetwing and the Henrietta. They started off of Sandy Hook, New Jersey, on 11 December 1866 amid high westerly winds and raced to The Needles, the furthest westerly point on the Isle of Wight, famous for its lighthouse. Bennett's Henrietta won with a time of 13 days, 21 hours, 55 minutes.

However, he often scandalized society with his flamboyant and sometimes erratic behavior. In 1877, he left New York for Europe after an incident that ended his engagement to socialite Caroline May. According to various accounts, he arrived late and drunk to a party at the May family mansion, then urinated into a fireplace (some say grand piano) in full view of his hosts.

Bennett's controversial reputation has been thought to have inspired, in the United Kingdom, the phrase "Gordon Bennett" as an expression of incredulity.

In 1883, Gordon Bennett built the most magnificent steam yacht of its day, the beautiful Namouna. At 616 tons and 226 feet she was far larger than the next largest, the first Corsair at 185 feet.

Settling in Paris, he launched the Paris edition of the New York Herald, named The Paris Herald, the forerunner of the International Herald Tribune. He backed George W. DeLong's voyage to the North Pole on the USS Jeannette via the Bering Strait. The ill-fated expedition led to the deaths from starvation of DeLong and 19 of his crew, a tragedy that only increased the paper's circulation.

Bennett returned to the United States and organized the first polo match in the United States at Dickel's Riding Academy at 39th Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City. He would help found the Westchester Polo Club in 1876, the first polo club in America. He established the Gordon Bennett Cup for international yachting and the Gordon Bennett Cup for automobile races.[7] In 1906, he funded the Gordon Bennett Cup in ballooning (Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett), which continues to this day. In 1909, Bennett offered a trophy for the fastest speed on a closed circuit for airplanes.

He did not marry until he was 73. His wife was Maud Potter, widow of George de Reuter, son of Julius Paul Reuter, founder of Reuters news agency. He died on May 14, 1918 in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Alpes-Maritimes, France. Bennett is buried at the Cimetière de Passy.