James Gordon Bennett Jr. was born in New York in 1841. He was the founder and publisher of the New York Herald, which was to become the International Herald Tribune.
It was in 1906 that Gordon Bennett founded the “Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett” and presented a trophy to the Federation Aéronautique International (F.A.I.)in Paris as the prize for the pilot who flew furthest in a gas balloon.
The essential difference between the Gordon Bennett competition and any other aeronautics competition is that the competitors of the Coupe Gordon Bennett never know where they are going to land or how long they are going to stay up in the air. The longest flight had remained for a long time at 73 hours (achieved in 1908) until Wilhelm Eimers and Bernd Landsmann in 1995 kept their balloon aloft for 92 hours.
The race starts in the country of the winner of the year before. The guest countries often issue stamps or at least a special postmark to put on the postcards and envelopes that are going up in the balloons.
Between 1906 and 1938 the race was organized 26 times. In 1939 it was cancelled because of the beginning of World War II. Even though the war ended in 1945 it would take until 1979 before the competition started again.
The British pioneer aviator and motorist Charles Rolls was placed 3rd in the inaugural race by flying from Paris to Norfolk in 26 hours - a distance of 286 miles.
However, it wasn't until 2008 that Britain won the race when David Hempleman-Adams and Jonathan Mason flew 1100 miles in 74 hours from Alburqueque, New mexico to Wisconsin. (Story).