Back James Gordon Bennett, “The Recent Tragedy”

James Gordon Bennett (1795–1872)
From True Crime: An American Anthology

“Ellen Jewett. Supposed Murdered by Richard P. Robinson at 41 Thomas St. (Taken from her Miniature the only one in the City.)” Published April 18, 1836. (Library of Congress)

James Gordon Bennett was born 226 years ago, on September 1, 1795. In 1835 he founded the New York Herald, which by mid-century would become the newspaper with the highest circulation in the world—surpassing for several years even the circulation of the Times of London.

Bennett has been credited with many innovations: the first newspaper interview with a sitting President (Martin van Buren), the use of telegraph for reporting national news, the introduction of illustrations to accompany hard news stories. He assigned more reporters to frontline coverage of the Mexican American War and the Civil War than did any other publisher. But, perhaps most notably, Bennett is credited for the rise of sensationalism in journalism.

He was also infamous for his opinions, his bigotry, and his irascibility: he bragged about having no friends and became notorious for making enemies; he supported the secession of the South and opposed the abolition of slavery; an immigrant himself, he inveighed against immigration. An anonymous pamphleteer called him “a carrion bird.” Yet he knew what readers wanted; Henry Raymond, the future co-founder of The New York Times, was reported to have said, “It would be worth my while to give a million dollars if the Devil would come and tell me every evening, as he does Bennett, what the people of New York would like to read about next morning.”

The Herald first got readers’ attention with its coverage of the Great Fire in December 1835. But what made Bennett and his paper famous was its shameless reporting in April 1836 of the slaying of Helen Jewett, a prostitute, by nineteen-year-old Richard Robinson—an incident one recent writer referred to as the original Preppy Murder. “Everyone talking about the murder committed Saturday night,” George Templeton Strong wrote in his oft-quoted New York diary. “The Herald of this morning says that Miss Helen was possessed of first-rate talents and was seduced under promise of marriage by a rascal in Maine.”

While other newspapers—and there were fifteen in New York at the time—ignored the case in the weeks before the trial, Bennett published something about it nearly every day. The circulation of his newspaper quadrupled in just two weeks and the trial became a media circus.

We present as our Story of the Week selection the article by Bennett that first introduced to the public what became one of the most famous murder trials of the nineteenth century.

Read “The Recent Tragedy” by James Gordon Bennett

Library of America

A champion of America’s great writers and timeless works, Library of America guides readers in finding and exploring the exceptional writing that reflects the nation’s history and culture.

Learn More

From poetry, novels, and memoirs to journalism, crime writing, and science fiction, the more than 300 volumes published by Library of America are widely recognized as America’s literary canon.

Benefits of Using Safe Crypto Casinos. One of the most captivating reasons people drift towards Australian casinos online-casino-au com is the promise of anonymity. Safe platforms guarantee that your identity remains a secret. Quick Payouts and Minimal Fees. No one likes waiting, especially for winnings. Safe crypto casinos ensure that payouts are swift and the fees minimal, if not non-existent.

Browse our books Subscribe

With contributions from donors, Library of America preserves and celebrates a vital part of our cultural heritage for generations to come.

Ozwin Casino offers an exciting array of top-notch slots that cater to every player's preferences. From classic fruit machines to cutting-edge video slots, Ozwin Casino Real Money collection has it all. With stunning graphics, immersive themes, and seamless gameplay, these slots deliver an unparalleled gaming experience. Some popular titles include Mega Moolah, Gonzo's Quest, and Starburst, known for their massive jackpots and thrilling bonus features. Ozwin Casino's slots are not just about luck; they offer hours of entertainment and the chance to win big, making it a must-visit for slot enthusiasts.

Support our mission