Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Amazing Nellie Bly - Part Three

"In spite of the assurance that I would be released in a few days, my heart gave a sharp twinge.  Pronounced insane by four expert doctors and shut up behind the unmerciful bolts of a madhouse was an uncomfortable position."  In spite of what she had experienced, or in her case, because of the rush she experienced, Nellie was eager for her next exciting story.

In 1873, Jules Verne published a novel called Around the World in 80 Days.  In his book a fictional hero named Phileas Fogg circled the world on a bet.  No real person had attempted this huge and dangerous feat.  The year was now 1889 and Nellie was bored and seeking adventure, so she proposed that she attempt it as a publicity stunt for the The World.  The paper's business manager told her that it would be better to send a man because he would not need a chaperon or as much luggage.  Incensed, Nellie shot back, "Very well.  Start the man, and I will start the same day for some other newspaper and beat him."  She got the assignment.

At 9:40 a.m. on November 14, 1889, and with two days notice, Nellie now only 25 years old boarded the Augusta Victoria, a steamer of the Hamburg America Line, and began her 24,899 mile journey.  All she brought with her was the dress she was wearing, a sturdy overcoat, several changes of underwear and a small travel bag carrying her toiletry essentials.  She carried most of her money in a bag tied around her neck.

Communications in 1889 were made possible by efficient submarine cable networks and the electric telegraph.  Only short messages could be sent.  Her entire stories of her progress and adventures still had to be mailed which took several weeks.  The World, in order to keep interest up between reports, organized a "Nellie Bly Guessing Match" in which readers were asked to estimate her arrival time to the second, with the Grand Prize being a free trip to Europe and spending money for the trip.  Newspaper sales soared while people in New York and the rest of the country were keeping track of Nellie Bly's whereabouts.

Nellie went through England, France, Brindisi, the Suez Canal, Colombo (Ceylon), the Straits Settlements of Penang and Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan.  While in France Nellie met Jules Verne and his wife.  His wife commented afterwards, "She is trim, energetic, and strong.  I believe, Jules, that she will make your heroes look foolish."  It is said that Jules agreed and laughed.

During her travels using steamships and existing railroad systems, she experienced some setbacks particularly in Asia .  During these stops she visited a leper colony in China and bought a monkey in Singapore.

On the returning trip headed for San Francisco on the White Star Line ship Oceanic she was two days behind the schedule she had set for herself because of rough weather while crossing the Pacific.  The World owner, Joseph Pulitzer, chartered a private train to bring her home, and she arrived back in New Jersey on January 25, 1890, at 3:51 p.m.  Nellie had circled the world in seventy-two days, six hours, eleven minutes and fourteen seconds! 

Nellie Bly was back in New York and a hero.  She had not only set the first record to beat, but the year was 1890, and she did it almost completely unchaperoned.  The overcoat she had worn during the trip became her trademark.  Nellie was now not only a celebrated journalist, but a celebrated adventurer.

What next for this amazing woman?

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