Logo: small map of Scotland
Link to Scottish Biography Index








Keith
Keith

James Gordon Bennett lived from 1 September 1795 to 1 June 1872. He founded, published and edited the New York Herald. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.

James Gordon Bennett
James Gordon Bennett
Note About Image Copyright

James Gordon Bennett was born in the village of Newmill, just north of Keith in Moray, where his father was a farmer. After leaving school he emigrated to Nova Scotia, before moving on to Portland in Maine and to Boston, where he arrived in January 1820 at the age of 24. He worked as a proofreader and bookseller before moving to New York City in 1823, where he became a freelance journalist and editorial assistant.

Bennett made a number of attempts to start a newspaper of his own before, in May 1835, launching the New York Herald. In April 1836, it shocked readers, and boosted circulation, with its front page coverage of the murder of prostitute Helen Jewett. As part of the coverage, Bennett conducted what is said to be the world's first ever newspaper interview. As a newspaper proprietor, Bennett introduced a series of innovations, including requiring advertisers to pay in advance, something that rapidly caught on across the industry. He also introduced illustrations printed with woodcuts. In 1839, Bennett published the first exclusive interview with a United States President, Martin Van Buren.

The Herald took an independent political line, but its endorsement of senior politicians running for office was highly influential and much sought-after. Bennett, and the Herald, supported the cause of the Union during the Civil War. Bennett did not support Abraham Lincoln, but after the President's assassination was a leading voice in turning him into a martyr. In 1866, Bennett handed control of the Herald over to his son, James Gordon Bennett Jr. At the time it had the largest circulation in the USA, though it later declined and merged with the New York Tribune. Gordon Bennett died in 1872. He subsequently had a street and a public park named after him, both in northern Manhattan. The exclamation "Gordon Bennett!" dates from the era of Gordon Bennett Jr.

Top of Page Top of Page