JAMES GORDON BENNETT (1841 – 1918)
The son of a New York media baron, James Gordon Bennett was a flamboyant character whose love of sport and all-round derring-do was reflected in the six annual, white-knuckle car races that bore his name. Born into the upper echelons of New York society, Bennett loved nothing more than a crazy wager or a madcap dash to settle a score.
At 26, he took control of his father’s news empire, boosting sales at the New York Herald with a number of lavish publicity stunts.
Unfortunately for New York, Bennett’s rapacious playboy nature and extravagant spending habits led to him scandalizing many in “high society”.
This notoriety forced him to relocate in Europe and it was in Paris that James Gordon Bennett developed an all-consuming passion for the newly emerging technology of the motorcar. In 1900 he sponsored the first-ever international motoring competition, the spectacular Gordon Bennett Cup Race which was held in Ireland on July 2nd 1903. A precursor to modern Grand Prix motor racing today, the Irish Gordon Bennett Cup Race was the first ever international race held on a closed circuit.
“With the institution of a challenge cup,
manufacturers would have to fight to uphold their reputation…”
Bennett was fond of all sports, especially of yachting, and established the James Gordon Bennett cup as a trophy in international yacht races and similar cups for balloon and airplane races.
Educated mostly in France. In 1869–71 he financed Henry Stanley's expedition into Africa to find David Livingston, and from 1879 to 1881 he supported the ill-fated expedition of G. W. De Long to the arctic region. In reporting international news the Herald scored repeated triumphs.
After 1877, Bennett lived mostly in Paris, directing his
newspapers by cable, and with John W. Mackay he organized (1883)
the Commercial Cable Company to handle European dispatches. He
established London and Paris daily editions of the Herald; the
Paris paper was an unprofitable, sincere attempt to promote
You can hear the words “GORDON
BENNETT” commonly used today as an
exclamation of disbelief throughout England
and especially London. The slang term
derives from the disbelief expressed at our
hero’s lavish stunts. As a newspaper editor
Bennett is remembered for sending Stanley
on his successful mission into deepest,
darkest Africa to look for Dr. Livingstone. He
was also infamous for his bad manners when, on entering a restaurant he
was reported to have pulled the table cloths and contents off every table before
producing a wad of cash to pay for the damage. James Gordon Bennett is further
believed to have frittered away $40 million dollars by the time he died in 1918.