At 3.51pm on the afternoon of the 25th January 1890, American journalist Nellie Bly arrived in New Jersey after completing a 72 day, 24,899-mile journey around the world. Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in Eighty Days had been published in 1873, and Bly’s circumnavigation was the first time anybody had attempted to turn it in to fact.
Born in 1864, Elizabeth Jane Cochran adopted the pseudonym “Nellie Bly” after securing a position as a journalist at the Pittsburgh Dispatch. However, she quickly became frustrated at being forced to write for the so-called “women’s pages” and headed to New York. Here she proved herself to be a formidable investigative journalist after posing as a mental patient in order to report on the brutal and neglectful conditions inside a local Women’s Lunatic Asylum.
In 1888 she suggested to John A. Cockerill, the managing editor of the New York World that she should circumnavigate the world. She battled with the newspaper’s senior executives for over a year as they preferred to send a man instead. She responded by telling them to “Start the man and I’ll start the same day for some other newspaper and beat him.” Eventually they gave in and, with a single bag smaller than modern carry-on allowance and £200 in English gold and banknotes, Bly departed from Hoboken Pier in New Jersey on board the Augusta Victoria steamship on the 14th November 1889.
Bly sent short reports to the newspaper by cable throughout her journey, while the full account of her journey was later published as the book Around the World in Seventy-Two Days.