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James Gordon Bennett, I Presume

Commodore Bennett always had a great interest in the latest technology, and his reporters kept him informed: in 1899 he heard about an experimenter named Marconi, and he sent $5000 to him if he would come to America and report on the America's Cup, transmitting the news directly to the Herald by wireless. In 1907, stock quotes were transmitted to a vessel by wireless courtesy of the Herald, to be hoisted in signal flags for the benefit of members during the NYYC Annual Cruise.

In 1900, Bennett lived on Louis XIV's estate in Versailles, and he built his yachting masterpiece, the 301-foot Lysistrata. She had a crew of 100, all clean shaven in the manner of the British Navy. At any moment, the crew had to be ready to respond to the commodore's whim; it might be dinner aboard for 70 guests, or immediate departure for the Mediterranean. A troupe of performers were invited aboard for an evening, and were so popular with the guests that Bennett sailed off with them for a week's time, causing their manager to cancel all shows ashore. This was turned into excellent publicity, of course, when they returned.

Lysistrata had, among other accommodations, a padded stall for a milk cow, with electric fan, to provide fresh cream to the table. She had three "owner's suites" on separate decks, (in addition to guest quarters) to accommodate the fancy of her owner, and she carried a French automobile, a De Dion Bouton. Mark Twain, a regular contributor of over 200 articles and letters to the Herald since 1868, was apoplectic when Bennett arrived in Bermuda with the first car ever seen there, 1906, and lowered it from the deck of Lysistrata. Twain, with the help of his friend Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton, drafted an edict for a "motorless Eden." "It would be a fatal error to attract to Bermuda the extravagant and sporting set who have made so many other places entirely intolerable to persons of taste and cultivation." Bennett toured the island at a noisy 15 miles an hour with a crowd of schoolboys running behind him. Twain was successful in temporarily banning cars from Bermuda in 1910.

Life aboard Lysistrata is clearly depicted in paintings. Lysistrata was sold to Russia in 1914 where she served as a fisheries protection vessel, appearing in Jane's as late as 1966.

After Bennett's death in France in 1918, at the age of 78, the Herald was sold for $4 million and appeared for the last time from its own presses in 1920. It was merged with the Sun, then with the Tribune, and is still printed as the International Herald Tribune. For the most part, however, the paper died with its owner.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The James Gordon Bennetts; by Don C. Seitz; Bobbs-Merrill Co.; 1928.

The Goldon Pastime; by John Rousmaniere; a Nautical Quarterly Book; W.W.Norton & Co.; 1986.

From Sandy Hook to 62 Degrees; Charles Edward Russell; The Century Co.; 1929.

The History of the New York Yacht Club; John Parkinson, Jr.; The New York Yacht Club; 1975.

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