Monday, October 22, 2012

From the Archives: The James Gordon Bennetts' New York Herald, Part 2

As you run from store to store on 34th Street, did you ever ask yourself "Why Herald Square?" Today's post is part 2 of a 3-part series on the New York Herald from our archivist Anne. This post also appears on NYC Circa, a blog about NYC and its history. 

In 1866 James Gordon Bennett Sr. passed the publishing duties of the New York Herald on to a man who many thought to be an unlikely successor -- his son James Gordon Bennett Jr.

Image: NYPL
James Gordon Bennett Jr. is best known in history for his devotion to yachting, ballooning, and socializing on a grand scale. Mostly due to the Herald's commercial success he was raised to cultivate and enjoy just about any recreational activity that required expensive equipment and/or traveling. Aside from a brief stint serving as a Third Lieutenant for the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service during the Civil War, Bennett practiced a life of leisure with a consistency and fervor that led artist friend and Julius LeBlanc Stewart to paint it at least twice. . . .

On the Yacht "Namouna", Venice (1890), Julius LeBlanc Stewart
. . . with totally different lighting schemes. The sky in the painting below looks like the sun is rising and setting at the same time.

Yachting on the Mediterranean (1896), Julius LeBlanc Stewart
As publisher of the Herald JGB Jr. had an extensive list of "Don'ts" for reporters to follow. The list contained very detailed instructions on how to address or refer to the wealthy (i.e. his friends) in text. Father and son were a study in opposites: James Gordon Bennett Sr. was known for exposing scandal, and James Gordon Bennett Jr. was known for living it. Their contradictory natures did not escape other members of the press, who regularly satirized both, and often referred to Jr. as "The Commodore." Here, JGB Sr. visits his namesake from the grave to keep him in line, and Jr. reacts. 

Image: NYPL
Under Bennett Jr.'s leadership, the Herald's circulation gradually dropped and expenses steadily rose. Bennett moved to Paris in 1877 (Wikipedia, 4th paragraph) and continued to run the newspaper from there. While in Paris, he launched the Paris Herald (forerunner to the International Herald Tribune), and an evening edition of the paper called the Telegraph. He wasn't gone for good though. The famous Herald building was still yet to be built and the Square named after the paper of the same name. More on this in part 3.

Part 1 of this series can be found here.