Saturday, April 2, 2016

Around the World in 80 Days.

Beautiful Steam Ship, Paddle Steamer
I’m sure you’ve heard of the book Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne.  I’ve never actually read the book but I have seen a couple different versions of the movie including the one with Jackie Chan.  I’ve always associated comedy with the story because of the way the movies were written.

It turns out, back in the 1800’s, a woman reporter tried to traverse the world in 80 days.  Did you know that Nellie Bly, a reporter for the “New York World”, talked her bosses into letting her try to beat the fictional record set by Phileas Fogg in the novel.  After a year of arguing with them because they thought she would have too much luggage or be too frail, they finally agreed.  She left New York City on November 14, 1889 with 200 pounds in English gold and some American currency and nothing more than one small (16 inches wide and 7 inches high) suitcase.

As she traveled the world, she sent back reports but due to the time it took for the material to get back to the paper, they would often run contests so people could guess when she arrived at her next destination.  At the end of the trip, the twenty five year old had bested the record by setting her own.  It took her 72 days of travel but she did it!

Most people have heard of Nellie Bly and her trip.  But what about Elizabeth Bisland?  Do you know who she is?  She worked for the monthly magazine Cosmopolitan.  When the publisher got wind of Nellie Bly’s trip, he arranged for Elizabeth Bisland to make her own attempt at going around the world in 80 days. She left on the exact same day as Bly, six hours after she was contacted to do the job.

Nellie Bly went east to Europe and Elizabeth went west towards San Francisco.  Nellie Bly was unaware of her competition until she got to Hong Kong on Christmas Day, when she was informed by the steamer company that Elizabeth had passed through just three days prior. Unfortunately, Elizabeth was given some incorrect information in England which caused her to miss her connection with a fast ship that might have helped her win.  Instead, she had to take a slower steam ship and arrived four days after Nellie. 

Although Elizabeth arrived four days later, both she and Nellie arrived in under 80 days.  Nellie’s journey was followed more closely because her publication ran daily so the newspaper could easily publish updates, speculations, run contests, etc while Elizabeth’s magazine could only publish the information it had, once a month.

One interesting fact about Elizabeth is that when she died, her obituary did not mention her trip around the world.  This maybe because her writing tended to be a more literary nature and she focused on more serious topics.  She did publish a book in 1891 about her trip.

Did you know that both ladies are buried in the same cemetery in the Bronx?  Its fascinating that the fictional story is better known than these two ladies who proved the trip could be done at a time that men dominated the world and women were considered frail.

Stay tuned for tomorrow when I talk about another trip about the world but this one won't be in days.

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