Harry Bensley, 1876-1956: Around the World in an Iron Mask

The first war ruined so many good things.  International travel, for one thing. The story goes that (Englishman) Rupert Brooke was able to cross America with nothing more than a personal calling card. My own (American) grandfather made a pre-war bicycle tour with nothing more than a Bicycle Club ID. His 1915 passport (US) is a single piece of heavy paper folded wallet size, with all the signs of haste in the planning and execution.

So the story of Harry Bensley (that’s him on the left)  is a fraction less preposterous than it seems. 

The story goes that in 1907, our subject, a sporting fellow, got into a bet with some of his fellow London card players.  One of them was a visiting J.P. Morgan. Bensley bet the farm on a single hand, and lost.

To give him a fair but amusing way to recover this loss,  the other players offered a new bet.  At some point in the evening, Bensley had said that a man could walk around the world without ever showing his face.  Morgan said he couldn’t.  Money was put on the table and details worked out to mutual satisfaction.  Bensley would set off with an iron mask, a minder, and a baby buggy.

There were other conditions as well,  and I could go on, but the fact is, Bensley’s family have put up a dedicated website for their ancestor and done a magnificent job of it.  Check it out.  Pass it on.

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