Today in 1890, Nellie Bly made it around the world.
The character in the Jules Verne book that inspired her took 80 days.
Bly took just 72.
The celebrated journalist had made a name for herself with her stunning investigations, like the time she got herself into an asylum and reported on how patients with mental illness were treated.
In 1888, Bly had another idea: she’d read Jules Verne’s book “Around The World In 80 Days.”
She thought she could make the trip in real life, but in less time.
Her editor pushed back: he figured a woman wouldn’t be able to travel the world safely without a male chaperone, and besides, wouldn’t she try and pack a huge amount of luggage and slow herself down?
Bly essentially told him, either send me or send a man, but if you send the man, I’ll find another publisher who will send me and I’ll beat your man back home.
She set off from New Jersey in November of 1889.
There was no chaperone, and only one bag, in which she took everything she needed for the trip.
Well, almost everything; she probably could’ve used some motion sickness pills, because when she first set off by ship across the Atlantic, she was extremely seasick.
Fortunately that didn’t last, and she went on to London, France, Italy, Egypt, Japan, Singapore and more.
She even met Jules Verne along the way; he wished her luck.
Meanwhile, a rival publisher had sent out a traveler of their own.
Elizabeth Bisland set out just six hours after agreeing to go.
She moved west while Bly moved east, hoping that would be faster.
Bly said all along she would only race against time, but, still, she had to race to meet her deadline.
Crowds who had been reading her dispatches from the trip cheered her train rides from San Francisco to New York.
In all, Bly made the trip in just 72 days, well ahead of the main character in Jules Verne’s book, and four days ahead of Elizabeth Bisland.
Many people have made around the world trips since, and much faster ones.
But few caught the public imagination the way Nellie Bly did when she said she’d get all the way around the world in under 80 days… and did it.
In Scotland, January 25th is Burns Night, a celebration of the Scots national poet Robert Burns.
In 2021, a butcher decided to celebrate Burns Night by taking some of the Scottish national dish, haggis, and attaching it to a weather balloon.
It flew over 20 miles above the Earth before landing safely.
Nellie Bly: Around the World (Heinz History Center)