JAMES GORDON BENNETT (1841 – 1918)
James Gordon Bennett was a man so outrageous that part of his name entered the language as an exclamation of disbelief. He kept a cow on his yacht so that cream would be on tap, drove so recklessly that he
wiped Winston Churchill's mother out, and fired staff for no greater reason than that they were stand-ing on the wrong side of the room.
No surprise, then, that the Herald-Trib was only started because its founder urinated in the wrong fireplace.
It happened in 1877 when this high society Dennis the Menace was 36. He had inherited The New York Herald from his father and, despite living the life of a monied roustabout, had become engaged to socialite Caroline May. On New Year's Day he went drunk to her parents' house, where he promptly relieved himself in the drawing- room fireplace.
Bennett was escorted from the premises, horsewhipped by Caroline's brother, and fought an illegal duel. Ostracised by Manhattan society he went into self-imposed exile in France where he started the Paris- based version of his paper that would, in time, become the Herald- Trib.
There is little doubt that James Gordon-Bennett relieved himself in front of the guests, consequently bringing a New Year's party at the home of his future in-laws to an abrupt halt. The only question is whether he urinated in the grand piano or the fireplace.
Either way, the drunken episode coincided with Gordon-Bennett's decision in 1877 to move from America and base himself in Europe, mainly on his 301-foot yacht, the Lysistrata. From there he administered the running of the New York Herald, which he inherited from his Scottish-born father, James Gordon Bennett senior, who hyphenated his son's name.