James Gordon Bennet, 1792-1872

 james benn


James Gordon Bennett, Senior, was born at Enzie in 1792, son of a

poor crofter and, while still an infant, his family moved to Newmill

near Keith.


James was educated at school in Newmill by teacher, Donald

Cameron, and at Keith by the Rev. John Murdoch and was an able

scholar. Upon finishing his education, he went to a Seminary in

Aberdeen, then continued his studies in Spain. It was there he

decided that he did not have a vocation for the priesthood.

James returned to Newmill and started work in Keith with

Robert Stronach, a haberdasher. Later he went into business with

his uncle, Cosmo Reid, in Aberdeen and this lasted for a number of years.


In 1819, along with his friend James Wilson from Keith, he

decided to emigrate and, with only five pounds in his pocket, left for

Halifax, Nova Scotia. He had some knowledge of Spanish, French

and bookkeeping and so managed to support himself for a time. He

moved to Boston in 1820 and there found employment as a proof

reader, bookseller and translator. In 1823 he moved to New York

and drifted into a variety of jobs, including freelance writer and

editorial assistant on a newspaper. Finally he had found his forte and

entered the newspaper business.


Spurred on with this type of work, he set up his own

newspaper ‘The New York Herald’ in 1835. Initially he was editor,

publisher and vendor. The paper recorded interesting and risqué

facts in a brief form; it had no political allegiance and cost only one

cent! He was the first to introduce the cash-in-advance method for

advertising, which became the standard procedure for the industry.

‘The New York Herald’ was an instant success.


He had always contributed towards the welfare of his family

back home and, on one occasion, was able to visit them in Newmill

and Keith. It was noted that James helped and supported anyone

from Banffshire he met in America.


He erected a gravestone in memory of his parents in the old

cemetery in Keith and his daughter Jeannette (Mrs Isaac Bell) was

later interred in the same grave.


James Gordon Bennett, Senior, died on 2nd June 1872, a self-made

millionaire from Newmill, Keith.