1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bennett, James Gordon

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15945921911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 3 — Bennett, James Gordon

BENNETT, JAMES GORDON (1794–1872), American journalist, founder and editor of the New York Herald, was born at Newmills in Banffshire, Scotland, in 1794 (not in 1800, as has been stated). He was educated for the Roman Catholic priesthood in a seminary at Aberdeen, but in the spring of 1819, giving up the career which had been chosen for him, he emigrated to America. Landing at Halifax, Nova Scotia, he earned a poor living there for a short time by giving lessons in French, Spanish and bookkeeping; he passed next to Boston, where starvation threatened him until he got employment in a printing-office; and in 1822 he went to New York. An engagement as translator of Spanish for the Courier of Charleston, South Carolina, took him there for a few months in 1823. On his return to New York he projected a school, gave lectures on political economy and did subordinate work for the journals. During the next ten years he was employed on various papers, was the Washington correspondent first of the New York Enquirer, and later of the Courier and Enquirer in 1827–1832, his letters attracting much attention; he founded the short-lived Globe in New York in 1832; and in 1833–1834 was the chief editor and one of the proprietors of the Pennsylvanian at Philadelphia. On the 6th of May 1835 he published the first number of a small one-cent paper, bearing the title of New York Herald, and issuing from a cellar, in which the proprietor and editor played also the part of salesman. “He started with a disclaimer of all principle, as it is called, all party, all politics”; and to this he consistently adhered. By his industry, sagacity and unscrupulousness, and by the variety of his news, the “spicy” correspondence, and the supply of personal gossip and scandal, he made the paper a great commercial success. He devoted his attention particularly to the gathering of news, and was the first to introduce many of the methods of the modern American reporter. He published on the 13th of June 1835, the first Wall Street financial article to appear in any American newspaper; printed a vivid and detailed account of the great fire of December 1835, in New York; was the first, in 1846, to obtain the report in full by telegraph of a long political speech; and during the Civil War maintained a staff of sixty-three war correspondents. Bennett continued to edit the Herald almost till his death, at New York, on the 1st of June 1872.

His son, James Gordon Bennett (1841–  ), took over the management of the paper during the last year of its founder’s life, and succeeded him in its control. It was he who sent Henry M. Stanley on his mission to find Livingstone in Central Africa, and he fitted out the “Jeannette” Polar Expedition, and in 1883 established (with John W. Mackay) the Commercial Cable Company.