Nellie Bly: Around the World in 72 Days

Nellie Bly.

On this date in 1890, journalist Nellie Bly arrived back in New York after a record-breaking 72-day trip around the world.

Here are some things you may not have known about Bly and her journey.

Elizabeth Jane Cochran was born in 1864 near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At the age of 16, she replied to a misogynistic column in the Pittsburgh Dispatch newspaper. The editor of the paper was so impressed with her ability that he gave her a full-time job. The editor assigned her the pen name “Nellie Bly” after the title character in a popular song by Stephen Foster.

She tried to write stories about working women, but was prevented from doing so by her superiors. She eventually was moved to the women’s pages, where she covered fashion, society and gardening, among other genteel topics. At the age of 21, she left Pittsburgh to work as a foreign correspondent in Mexico. After six months there, her work upset the government, so she returned to the U.S., eventually moving to New York.

In 1887, she managed to talk her way into an assignment from the New York World, in which she would pose as someone with a mental illness to report on conditions at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum in New York City. Her 10-day stay exposed the horrible conditions in the hospital and led to changes in mental-heath procedures and an increase in hospital funding.

In 1888, Bly decided she wanted to attempt to make Jules Verne’s novel “Around the World in 80 Days” into a reality. It took almost two years to convince her editors to allow her to try, but on November 14, 1889, with two days notice, she departed Hoboken, New Jersey, on the steamer Augusta Victoria bound for England.

She carried only the dress she was wearing, an overcoat, a few changes of undergarments, and personal essentials. She carried 200 British pounds and some American currency in a bag tied around her neck.

She traveled from England to France, where she met Jules Verne, before transiting the Suez Canal bound for Ceylon, which is now called Sri Lanka, then on to Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. From Japan, she traveled on board the RMS Oceanic, arriving in San Francisco two days behind schedule because of bad weather. The publisher of her newspaper, Joseph Pulitzer, chartered a private train to help Bly make up time.

She arrived back in Hoboken at 3:51 p.m. on January 25, 1890, 72 days after leaving.

A few months later, Bly’s record was beaten by George Francis Train, who completed the journey in 67 days. By 1913, the record was down to 36 days.

Nellie Bly died of pneumonia in 1922 at the age of 57.

The current record for suborbital circumnavigation of the globe was set by an Air France flight in 1992, with a time of 32 hours, 39 minutes and 3 seconds.

Our question: What type of aircraft was used in the 1992 Air France record?


Today is Russian Students Day, National Police Day in Egypt and National Voters’ Day in India.

It’s unofficially Fluoride Day, National Irish Coffee Day, and Macintosh Computer Day.

It’s the birthday of writer Virginia Woolf, who was born in 1882; athlete Steve Prefontaine, who was born in 1951; and musician Alicia Keys, who is 36.

Because our topic happened before 1960, we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1984, the top song in the U.S. was “Owner of a Lonely Heart” by Yes.

The No. 1 movie was “Terms of Endearment,” while the novel “Pet Sematary” by Stephen King topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Weekly question: In the song “American Pie,” who is referred to as “The Jester”?

Submit your answer at and we’ll add the name of the person with the first correct answer to our winner’s wall … at We’ll have the correct answer on Friday’s episode.



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