Mr Gordon Bennett and the 'healthy, noble, and pleasant sport' of yachting

In the first issue of Yachting World (April 1894), the editor introduces his new periodical which is aimed at those individuals engaged in the ‘great national sport of yachting – a sport at once healthy, noble, and pleasant’. He highlights that it will have ‘accounts and illustrations of Yachting Celebrities’ and will include a specific column for ‘the fair yachtswomen, who now constitute as numerous and important, as they have always been an attractive, class’.

In response to a reader’s enquiry, I have been taking a look at our historical and current journal runs: this time focussing on yachts and yachting.

Together with Lloyd’s Register of Yachts (available through on open access in the Reading Room), we have two very long and mostly complete runs of Yachting Monthly and Yachting World (including the very first issues of both).

The editor in that first issue of Yachting World emphases that it will have ‘neither fads nor prejudices’, and ‘be essentially popular rather than technical’ and ‘intelligible to the veriest amateur’.

When trying to find an article which typified the journal, I came across a portrait of yachting celebrity, Mr James Gordon Bennett, proprietor of the New York Herald, ‘a thorough sportsman, a good polo player, and a capital shot’ (Yachting World: vol. 1, no. 16, August 1894, p. 318).

Gordon Bennett
Mr James Gordon Bennett, proprietor of the New York Herald, ‘a thorough sportsman, a good polo player, and a capital shot’

By the time of this magazine feature, Mr Bennett had been yachting for more than 20 years; was a member of the ‘three great yacht clubs of the world’; and had owned more yachts than could be listed in the limited space of the article.

In 1855, along with a partner Mr William Douglas, he had commissioned the building of the yacht Priscilla with a view to defending the America’s Cup against Genesta – however, both yachts were subsequently out-performed by the yacht Puritan.

Included in the feature is a picture of Mr Bennett’s latest yacht, Namourna – a screw schooner of 740 tons – described by the Star newspaper in 1882 as being ‘lighted by several hundred of Edison’s electric lights and is altogether one of the most marvellous yachts afloat, both in construction and fit up’.


One last fact: it is widely believed that this gentleman’s name gave rise to the well-known exclamation of surprise – Gordon Bennett!

Additional note: it has come to the attention of the Library staff that an electronic index to the Lloyd’s Register of Yachts will be available soon. Please enquire of the Library team.

Jean Lindsey, Library Assistant

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