Birthday: September 1, 1795
Died At Age: 76
Sun Sign: Virgo
Also Known As: James Gordon Bennett
Born in: Keith
Famous as: Founder of New York Herald
children: James Gordon Bennett, Jr.
Died on: June 1, 1872
place of death: New York City
Who was James Gordon Bennett, Sr.?
James Gordon Bennett, Sr. was the founder and editor of the New York Herald; he is also popularly dubbed as the father of modern journalism. Born in Scotland, Bennett Sr. was raised in a seminary for the Roman Catholic priesthood, but in 1819, he immigrated to America. After spending sometime in poor condition and working low-paid jobs, Bennett eventually settled in New York City, where he carried out subordinate work for the periodicals. Over the next ten years, James Gordon Bennett worked at various newspapers; he was Washington correspondent of the New York Enquirer, and later the assistant editor of the New York Courier and Enquirer. Subsequently, he also tried twice to launch his own newspaper but failed, both the times. In 1835, with a limited working capital, Bennett published the first number of a small one-cent paper, bearing the title of ‘The New York Herald’. Thereafter, with his knowledge and creativity, Bennett transformed the paper into a huge commercial success over the years. He understood the importance of deadline journalism and primarily focused on collecting a variety of news with assistance from sensational correspondence, introducing numerous techniques of modern journalism. In 1835, his paper published the first Wall Street financial article in America and later during the Civil War, Bennett maintained a staff of 63 war reporters for fast and efficient broadcasting. Bennett continued to edit the New York Herald almost until his death and in many ways shaped the American newspaper as it is today.
Childhood & Early Life
James Gordon Bennett, Sr. was born on September 1, 1795, in Newmill, Banffshire, Scotland, into a Roman Catholic family and was raised in a principally Presbyterian community.
After receiving a classical education, Bennett went to study at a Catholic seminary in Aberdeen, Scotland, at the age of 15. Initially, he wanted to become a pastor and studied at the seminary for four years but later migrated to America in 1819.
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At the age of 24, Bennett sailed to North America and landed in Nova Scotia with very little money in his pocket. Later, he reached Boston penniless and lived in a deprived condition for a few days until being hired as a clerk in a publishing firm.
Subsequently, he worked as a proofreader and was able to learn the fundamentals of the publishing business. In mid-1820s, he moved to New York and started working as a freelancer in newspaper business.
Thereafter, Bennett got a job as a translator with the quite influential Charleston Courier, in South Carolina. While translating articles from French and Spanish newspapers, he learned important lessons of journalism from his employer, Aaron Smith Wellington.
Unable to fit in Charleston’s social order, he returned to New York and during the next several years, Bennett worked as a lecturer and freelance writer. In 1827, he earned a job at the New York Enquirer and was chosen to be the first Washington correspondent for a New York City newspaper in history.
After gathering enough knowledge about journalism and failing twice in launching his own newspaper, in 1835, Bennett founded the New York Herald with a working capital of $500.
In its early days, the newspaper's office was in a derelict basement with Bennett serving as its publisher, reporter, as well as advertising and circulation manager. In the next 37 years, Bennett transformed the Herald into the largest circulating newspaper in the world through his dedication and novelty.
Over the years, Bennett introducing several lasting innovations in journalism such as publishing the closing prices of stocks traded each day on the New York Stock Exchange, hiring reporters to cover stories ahead of his competitors, and efficiently using the communication potential to meet deadlines.
Bennett arranged for small boats to intercept the steamships crossing the Atlantic for news and was also the first person to use the telegraph extensively for news coverage. He established correspondents in Europe, introduced a society column and insisted on changing advertisements frequently to boost consumer sales which in turn profited the newspaper sales.
After the emergence of telegraph, Bennett used it to quickly receive and print the news from different cities. He also became the first newspaper publisher to exploit the rail and steamboat transportation for gathering information on various national as well as international issues.
Another major factor behind the success of Bennett's newspaper was that it was politically independent, completely unattached to any political faction. Therefore, he never hesitated in publishing editorials which targeted many political figures and as a result, also suffered severe beatings by his enemies.
Brilliantly executed news articles with a creative flair and without any political influence, The Herald became one of the most profitable newspapers in the world and Bennett was listed among the wealthiest Americans of his time.
Although, in 1867, he turned over the operation of the newspaper to his son, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., Bennett Sr. remained connected with the newspaper until his death.
Between 1861 and 1865, during the American Civil War, the New York Herald had the largest circulation and gained widespread prominence in the newspaper world. With a technological edge and innovative techniques to acquire information, James Gordon Bennett was successful in procuring stories from the battlefield ahead of the dispatches that were sent to the War Department.
Bennett developed unique editorial techniques that increased readership which made his newspaper an essential reading for the citizenry as well as political leaders. He was the first newspaper publisher who used the telegraph to obtain a full report of a major political speech and hired more than 60 correspondents to cover the encounters during the Civil War.
Personal Life & Legacy
In June 1840, Bennett married Henrietta Agnes Crean and the couple had three children including James Gordon Bennett, Jr. and Jeanette Gordon Bennett.
James Gordon Bennett, Sr. died in his sleep on June 1, 1872, in New York, U.S.A. He was buried at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.