Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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BENNETT, James Gordon, journalist, born in New Mill, near Keith, Scotland," 1 September 1795; died in New York City, 1 June 1872. His parents were Roman Catholics of French descent, and when he was fourteen years old he was sent to Aberdeen to study for the priesthood; but, convinced that he had mistaken his vocation, he determined to emigrate, and in April 1819, he landed at Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he attempted to earn a living by teaching book-keeping. Failing in that, he made his way to Boston, where he found employment as a proof-reader. About 1822 he went to New York, and contributed to the newspapers, then became assistant in the office of the Charleston "Courier," and in 1824 returned to New York and attempted to establish a commercial school, and then to lecture on political economy, but was unsuccessful, and again turned to the newspapers, becoming a reporter, paragraphist, and contributor of poetry and all kinds of articles. In 1825 he bought on credit the "Sunday Courier," but soon gave it up. The next year he became connected with the "National Advocate," but left it because of its advocacy of the election of John Q. Adams, and became associate editor on Noah's "Enquirer." About this time he joined the Tammany society. In 1828 he went to Washington as correspondent for the "Enquirer," and sent a series of lively personal letters that were widely copied. At his suggestion the "Enquirer" was consolidated with another paper, becoming the "Courier and Enquirer," which, with James Watson Webb for editor and Bennett as his assistant, became the leading American newspaper. When it deserted Jackson for Nicholas Biddle, Bennett left it, and started a cheap party paper that existed only thirty days, and then a Jackson organ in Philadelphia, called the "Pennsylvanian." He appealed to the party to sustain this paper, and, being refused, returned to New York, and, determined to trust no more to politicians, on 6 May 1835, issued the first number of the "Herald," a small four-page sheet, sold for a cent a copy. Two young printers, Anderson and Smith, agreed to print it, and share the profits and losses with the editor. Bennett wrote the entire newspaper, making up for the lack of news by sensational opinions, fictitious intelligence, and reckless personal attacks. The paper became popular, although it offended all parties and all creeds. On 13 June 1835, he introduced a money-article, then a novel feature in American journalism. The next month the printing-office was burned, and Smith and Anderson abandoned the enterprise; but on 31 August Bennett revived the paper, of which he was thenceforth sole proprietor. The great fire of 16 December 1835, was reported with the fullness of incident and detail that has since become characteristic of American newspaper reports. In 1838 he engaged European journalists as regular correspondents, and extended the system to the principal American cities. He systematically employed newsboys to distribute his paper. The personal encounters in which he became involved through his lampoons were described in the same lively and picturesque style. In 1841 the income of the paper was at least $100,000. In 1846 a long speech by Clay was telegraphed to the "Herald." During the civil war its circulation more than doubled. It employed sixty-three war correspondents. Its expenditures for correspondence and news were disproportionate to its payment for editorial and critical matter. It was as a collector of news that Mr. Bennett mainly excelled. He had an unerring judgment of its pecuniary value. He knew how to select the subject that engrossed the interest of the people, and to give them all the details they could desire. He had also a method of impressing the importance of news upon others in his employ. No exchange editor was so close a reader as he of the great papers of the country. He clipped passages for insertion or for texts for editorials or special articles, and when he visited the office it was to unpack his mind of the suggestions stored there by reading the exchanges. He seldom gave an editorial writer more than the suggestions for an article, and he required his co-laborers to meet him daily for consultation and the distribution of topics. When another person presided, the several editors made suggestions" when Bennett himself was present, the editors became mere listeners, and wrote, as it were, at his dictation. The "Memoirs of J. G. Bennett and his Times" was published in New York in 1855. See Hudson's "Journalism in the United States" (New York, 1872). On 6 June 1840, Mr. Bennett married Miss Henrietta Agnes Crean, a poor, but accomplished, music-teacher in New York. She died in Italy, 31 March 1873.*James Gordon, Jr., born in New York City, 10 May 1841, the only son of the founder of the "Herald," became the proprietor of the newspaper upon the death of his father. He resides mostly in Paris, and gives his attention chiefly to superintending the collection of foreign news. He added to the fame of his paper by publishing in England storm-warnings transmitted from the United States, by fitting out the "Jeanette" polar expedition, by sending Henry M. Stanley in search of Livingstone, and by other similar enterprises. In 1883 he associated himself with John W. Mackay in forming the commercial cable company and laying a new cable between America and Europe, to compete with the combined English and French lines. He has taken much interest in sports, especially in yachting, and in 1866 he took part in a memorable race from Sandy Hook to the Needles, Isle of Wight, which was won by his schooner, the "Henrietta," in 13 days 21 hours and 55 minutes, against two competing yachts. In 1870 he sailed another race across the Atlantic from Queenstown to New York in his yacht, the "Dauntless," but was beaten by the English "Cambria," which arrived only two hours in advance.
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