A Trip Around the World
On the morning of November 14, 1889, John Brisben Walker, the wealthy publisher of, The Cosmopolitan, boarded a New Jersey ferry bound for New York City. [A] Like many other New Yorker’s, he was carrying a copy of The World, the most widely read and influential newspaper of our time. A front-page story announced that Nellie Bly, The World’s star investigative reporter, was about to undertake the most sensational adventure of her career, which was an attempt to go around the world faster than anyone ever had before. [B] Sixteen years earlier, in his popular novel, Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne had imagined that such a trip could be accomplished in the time stated in the title. [ ] Nellie Bly hoped to do the trip in seventy-five days.
Immediately Walker recognized the publicity value of such a scheme, and at once an idea suggested itself: The Cosmopolitan would sponsor their own competitor in the around-the-world race, traveling in the opposite direction. Of course, the magazine’s circumnavigator would have to leave immediately, and would have to be, like Bly, a young woman. The public at that time, after all, would never warm to the idea of a man racing against a woman. [C] That morning, he met with Elizabeth Bisland, the magazine’s literary editor, whom agreed to become Blys competitor. [D] In the end, Elizabeth Bisland succeeded in beating Jules Verne’s eighty-day mark, completing the trip in seventy-six days – which would have been the fastest trip ever made around the world but for the fact that Nellie Bly had arrived four days earlier.
Although she ultimately lost the race, Bisland later became friends with Nellie Bly. Prior to her trip, she had never been out of the country before, and during her competition she discovered a love of travel that would stay with her the rest of her life. That was what the trip had given her, however, as she would reflect later: the vividness of a new world, where one was for the first time, as Tennyson had written, “Lord of the senses five.” “It was well,” she told herself when it was all over, “to have thus once really lived.”
Adapted from Goodman, M. “Elizabeth Bisland’s Race Around the World.” The Public Domain Review.