Around the World in 80 Days

Nellie Bly’s World Race Coming to Television

Nellie Bly’s Historic Race Around The World Being Developed For Television

By Anita Busch

This article is courtesy of Deadline.com: http://deadline.com/2015/03/nellie-bly-eighty-days-book-television-series-1201384763/ 

80days_cover_largeIt’s the best of journalism meets The Amazing Race meets Around the World in Eighty Days. Phileas Fogg, move aside. One of the most daring stories in history is that of investigative journalist Elizabeth Jane Cochrane (aka Nellie Bly) who in 1889 decided she would try to beat the fictional record in Jules Verne’s now classic story and go around the world less than 80 days.  At the same time, because competition is the name of the game in journalism, Cosmopolitan sent their own reporter Elizabeth Bisland, out to beat not only the 80-day fictional Phileas Fogg record but also try to one-up Bly who was working for Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World  newspaper.

Now that story, based on Matthew Goodman’s bestselling book, “Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World” is being developed for television by Zero Gravity Management’s Christine Holder and Mark Holder with producer Lloyd Levin (Boogie NightsUnited 93Watchmen) and Beatriz Levin.

“We are developing it as a limited show and talking to creators now,” said Zero Gravity’s Marc Holder. “After that, we’ll go to talent. People have tried to explore her story from her days undercover at a woman’s insane asylum, but not many people have tried to delve into this particular story. Goodman just did such a wonderful job with this book. They are both courageous women and this story is really inspiring.”

The race started on November 14, 1889 and each reporter left from New York, but went the opposite way around the world. The story grabbed headlines at the time and enthralled readers who were kept on the edge of the seats as each reporter filed stories about their dramatic and sometimes dangerous adventures. The race spanned over 24,000 miles using railroads and steamships as their main mode of transportation.

Beyond captivating the nation, the lives of both the well-respected journalist Bly and her competitor Bisland were forever changed by the journey. Bly ended up winning the race by four and a half days and set a world record. She had circumnavigated the globe in 72 days.

 

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Nellie Bly: Top of the Lists

Nellie Bly is top of the lists.

Nellie Bly is top of the lists.

Nellie Bly is ‘back on the front page’ as a chart-topper in the historical, convention-busting, inspiring and feminist leagues.

Just in time for International Women’s Day 2015, The Guardian  and The Observer named Nellie as one of the 10 best feminists.  Here’s what the article’s author Helen Lewis said:

“No one but a man can do this,” Nellie Bly’s editor told her when she suggested travelling round the world in less than 80 days. She would need a protector, he said – and how would she ever carry all the luggage a lady would need on such a trip? Bly didn’t worry too much about the first quibble, and travelled light, crushing all her belongings into a single handbag. She made it home in 72 days. That wasn’t the first time the pioneering American journalist had attracted attention through her work – a year earlier, in 1887, she faked madness to go undercover in an asylum, exposing its poor conditions and abusive staff.” Here’s the entire list of 10 Best Feminists

Nellie Bly's biography by Brooke Kroeger

Nellie Bly’s biography by Brooke Kroeger

In 10 Books About Innovative Women You Should Know More About, Kathleen Culliton names Nellie Bly: Daredevil. Reporter.Feminist by Brooke Kroeger.  This is what she says on online site Bustle:

“Here’s what I love about stories of women who innovate: they’re two stories. First you’ve got the story of the brilliant idea, or the world-changing artifact, the traveling of the globe, the charting of the star, the rallying of the people. Then, you’ve got the story of how the hell a woman got people to listen to her in the first place. These are stories not just of human beings who were crazy-smart, but women who were as tough as nails… Journalist Nellie Bly faked insanity to get committed in an asylum. She reported on its atrocities as she experienced them. When that was done, she circled the globe.”

Brooke Kroeger wrote this book because she could not find a single reliable source that accurately captured the story of Nellie Bly. Instead of a credible biography, she found brief encyclopedia entries and children’s books. And she was baffled because Bly not only had a major impact on journalism, but a fascinating life. In an age that relegated women reporters to the ‘Homes and Gardens’ section of the newspaper, Bly faked her own insanity to gain admission into and report on one of the nation’s most notorious insane asylums and effectively invented stunt journalism.”
Here’s the full list of 10 Books about Inspirational Women You Should Know More About.

Nellie Bly

Nellie Bly

Online worldwide news site Buzzfeed named Nellie Bly as one of  the Top 12 Historical Women Who Didn’t Give a ‘you know what’.

“Nellie Bly was a daring and influential investigative journalist who wrote groundbreaking stories about political corruption and poverty. She once faked madness in order to report undercover from an abusive mental institution in New York City, which led to outcry and reform. Her jealous peers referred to her investigations as “stunt reporting”, but Nellie, of course, didn’t give a  x*!x*!  about those whiny little x*!x*!     Oh, and she once travelled around the world in a record-breaking 72 days, just ‘cause.  Here’s the post.

She was named among the top 7 of inspiring ‘convention-breaking‘ women by Mother Nature Network who said:

Nellie exposed the abuses taking place inside the Women's Asylum.

Nellie exposed the abuses taking place inside the Women’s Asylum.

Nellie Bly was an investigative journalist who went undercover in a mental hospital to secure a job at a newspaper when she moved to New York City. She wrote about her experience spending 10 days in a mental ward: “What, excepting torture, would produce insanity quicker than this treatment? I would like the expert physicians who are condemning me for my action, which has proven their ability, to take a perfectly sane and healthy woman, shut her up and make her sit from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. on straight-back benches, do not allow her to talk or move during these hours, give her no reading and let her know nothing of the world or its doings, give her bad food and harsh treatment, and see how long it will take to make her insane. Two months would make her a mental and physical wreck.”

Following that blockbuster story, Bly circled the world in 72 days in imitation of Jules Verne’s book, married a millionaire, ran his steel manufacturing company after he died, and developed a number of patents for her business. She covered the suffragist movement in an article titled “Suffragists Are Men’s Superiors” in 1913 but correctly predicted women wouldn’t get the vote until 1920.
See full post here.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette where Nellie was once a reporter invites us to ‘Learn from the Past’ via Nellie Bly.
“In 1887, she moved to New York City and landed a job at the New York World. For one of her first assignments, she went undercover as a patient at the Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum. She spent 10 days experiencing the asylum’s deplorable living conditions, which included rotten food and physical abuse from the staff. After the New York World demanded her release, Bly’s firsthand accounts of the horrors of the asylum, “Ten Days in a Mad House,” became a book that prompted a grand jury investigation.Two years later, she decided to travel the world faster than novelist Jules Verne’s character Phileas Fogg in “Around the World in Eighty Days.” She boarded a ship from New York Nov. 14, 1889, and returned Jan. 25, 1890 — 72 days, six hours, 11 minutes and 14 seconds after her departure. Read the full article here.

 

 

In which Nellie Experiences Peaks… and Troughs… in Hong Kong

HONG KONG

Nellie’s dates:  23-24 December,  27-28 December 1889
My dates: 14-15, 19 September 

Nellie arrived in Hong Kong with the monsoon.  I landed in the midst of typhoon warnings and the undercurrents of civil turbulence.  Pro-democracy demonstrations — the Umbrella Revolution —   erupted one week after I left.

Competition

Nellie had no idea that Elizabeth Bisland was racing around the world in the opposite direction.

Nellie’s optimism at arriving in Hong Kong two days ahead of schedule quickly sunk to despair. She was only 39 days into her journey, and already in China. She headed straight to the Oriental and Occidental Steamship Company to book the first sailing to Japan, only to discover that someone was ahead of her.

Elizabeth Bisland, a journalist and author sent by a competing publication, set out from New York the day Nellie left, circling the world in the opposite direction.  Elizabeth had left Hong Kong three days earlier. An astonished Nellie kept her composure when the O&O Steamship officials told her the devastating news. Even worse, she would be stuck in Hong Kong Japan for five days awaiting her passage to Japan.

“That is rather hard, isn’t it?” she said quietly, ‘forcing a smile that was on her lips, but came from nowhere near the heart.’

When they told her that the race was over and she’d lost, Nellie replied:  “I am not racing with anyone.  I promised to do the trip in 75 days and I will do it.”  She did it in 72; Elizabeth Bisland finished in 76 days. The rest is history.

The Hong Kong that Nellie and Elizabeth experienced now exists only in photos, memories and a smattering of sites that have survived massive urbanisation. My goal was to locate them during my own race to beat the fury of approaching Typhoon Kalmaegi, due to sweep past the city at speeds of 125 km (77 miles) per hour. Warnings from the Hong Kong Observatory escalated.

slippery warningHappy Valley Cemetery  

Setting out from Wan Chai, one of the Umbrella Revolution ‘hot spots’, I travelled by metro, bus and finally tram to Hong Kong’s Happy Valley and the multi-faith cemetery that Nellie raved about. “It rivals in beauty the public gardens and visitors use it as a park,” she wrote. “One wanders along the walks never heeding that they are in the Valley of Death, so thoroughly is it robbed of all that is horrible about graveyards. That those of different faiths should consent to place their dead together in this lovely tropical valley is enough to give it the name of Happy Valley.”

Hong Kong Cemetery

Hong Kong Cemetery

Snakes!

Snakes!

It’s sad now. Neglected and unsafe, signs warn visitors of slippery grounds and stairs, and worst of all snakes!  The only living soul that morning in a massive, crumbling, reptile-infested cemetery,   I stepped warily (and loudly to ward off any snakes), across broken concrete and overgrown paths to explore the tombstones of Muslims, Hindus, Jews and Protestants. Although bereft of the beauty Nellie described, the cemetery and its ossuary, evoke a sense of the hereafter. A sign in the Muslim section states: “Visiting graves …. benefits both the dead and the living. While it is a tribute paid to the dead, it prompts the living to think about the essence of life.”

What a blast!

What a blast - the Noonday Gun

What a blast – the Noonday Gun

Something to ponder as  I left Happy Valley for Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay waterfront. I got to the Noonday Gun there just in time for the daily blast. Made famous in Noel Coward’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen, the tradition began in 1864 when Jardine’s, the company who owns it, was required to fire a one-shot salute every day at noon for perpetuity as punishment.  The company kept to the deal and now collects money for charity from those who wish to fire the Noonday Gun.

Nellie would’ve experienced a bigger blast. Jardine’s lowered the power…and the decibels… in 1961 at the request of neighbouring waterfront establishments.

Peak experience

From sea level at Causeway Bay, I headed for the highest point in Hong Kong — Victoria Peak via the historic Peak Tram to Victoria Gap.

Riding the historic Peak Tram

Riding the historic Peak Tram

Asia’s first funicular and the world’s steepest, the Peak Tram is a feat of modern engineering that Nellie rode a year after it opened in 1888.  The steam tram extending 1,350 metres to Victoria Gap cost Nellie 30 cents up and 15 cents down.  Today it’s electric and costs $5 US round-trip. The tram carried as many as 150,000 passengers its first year.  In 2013, its 125th year, the tram transported 4 million passengers.

Seats have always faced uphill to prevent passengers from falling forward. Intermediate tram stops are named after former British governors/administrators — Kennedy, MacDonnell, May and Barker.

If she stepped off the tram today, Nellie would be aghast to find Peak Tower, a colossal architectural icon devoted to consumption — home to the usual ghastly global suspects — Burger King, Crocs, Sunglass Hut, Adidas, Swatch, Swarovski and Travelex and more.

Fleeing commercialism, I located the Hong Kong Tourism Board based on the Peak Piazza in a former tram. There I met Sanford Lee and Windy Chiu who made my mission their own — to track down the ‘umbrella seat’ that Nellie describes in her book Around the World in 72 Days.

“…We were carried (by sedan chairs) to Victoria Peak. It required three men to a chair ascending the peak. At the Umbrella Seat, merely a bench with a peaked roof, everybody stops long enough to allow the coolies to rest…”

Windie Chui and I at the Umbrella Seat where sedan chair carriers rested before reaching the top.

Windy Chiu and I at the Umbrella Seat where sedan chair carriers rested before reaching the top.

Hong Kong Tourist Office Tram at Victoria Peak

Hong Kong Tourist Board Tram at Victoria Peak

Once I convinced them I was not in search of an umbrella (despite the approaching typhoon) nor a chair, Windy and I set off on an uphill search. Fifteen minutes later the elusive Umbrella Seat was before us. Not content with our original discovery, we climbed further up in the pre-storm heat to the Victoria Peak summit.

Rain was falling in sheets by the time we returned to the tourist office tram. The typhoon signal jumped from 1 (standby) to 3 (strong winds). Taking the Peak Tram down,  I arrived back at my hotel in Wan Chai to discover that typhoon signal 8 (gale and storm force winds) was in effect and all government agencies were now shut.

Would I be able to travel to Canton (Guangzhou) the next morning as planned?  Certainly not on a boat up the Pearl River like Nellie, but perhaps the trains would be running…

In which Nellie Meets Jules Verne

AMIENS, FRANCE – 23 November 1889

Nellie risked a time-guzzling deviation only 8 days into the race, sacrificing two nights of sleep, to accept an invitation to the home of Jules Verne –  the author who inspired her own voyage. It meant going to Amiens, France.

“Oh how I should love to see them,” she said upon learning of the invitation when she arrived in London. “Isn’t it hard to be forced to decline such a treat?”

Jules and Honouring Verne at home with their dog Folette. Amiens 1894

Jules and Honorine Verne at home with their dog Folette. 1894

Two days later she received a memorable welcome from Jules and Honorine Verne. “Jules Verne’s bright eyes beamed on me with interest and kindliness, and Mme. Verne greeted me with the cordiality of a cherished friend,” Nellie recalls. “Before I had been many minutes in their company, they had won my everlasting respect and devotion.”

Nellie’s visit with the Vernes lives on today at the Maison Jules Verne, a living tribute to the French author attracting visitors from around the world. Many rooms reflect the descriptions in Nellie’s own book Around the World in 72 Days.

Nellie’s description of the Verne’s salon is framed and hung there for all to read:

“The room was large and the hangings and paintings and soft velvet rug, which left visible but a border of polished wood, were richly dark. All the chairs artistically upholstered in brocaded silks, were luxuriously easy…”

Here at the  Maison Jules Verne, for the first time, I was quite literally following in Nellie’s footsteps. Nellie Bly and I were in the same room …separated by 125 years.  I guess I might have asked Mr Verne the same questions:

Have you ever been to America? Answer: Once to Niagara Falls. I know of nothing I long to do more than to see your land from New York to San Francisco.

How did you get the idea for your novel? Answer: “I got it from a newspaper.”

It was an article in Le Siècle newspaper showing calculations on travelling around the world in 80 days that Jules Verne discovered the basis of his novel. They had not taken into account the difference in the meridians which gained a day for Phileas Fogg and meant he won his bet. Had it not been for what he called ‘this denouement’, Jules Verne told Nellie he would never have written Around the World in 80 Days.

By candlelight they visited the author’s study which remains just as Nellie saw it. She was surprised by its modesty. So was I. “One bottle of ink and one penholder was all that shared the desk with the manuscript.” The tidiness of his manuscript impressed Nellie giving her the idea that “Mr Verne always improved his work by taking out superfluous things and never by adding.” Great advice for all writers and something I must keep in mind as I write this blog.

Jules Verne's home today

Jules Verne’s home today

Before she knew it, it was time to leave her new friends the Vernes. They shared a glass of wine in front of a roaring fire before bidding each other farewell.

The race was on.

Jules and Honorine Verne diligently followed Nellie’s progress around the globe and sent her a congratulatory telegram when she reached America. That fleeting visit made a lasting impression.

Amiens railway station where Nellie was met by the Vernes.

Amiens railway station where Nellie was met by the Vernes.

Racing Around the World Nellie Bly-style

TRAVEL TIPS BASED ON NELLIE BLY’S VOYAGE AROUND THE WORLD  14 November 1889 – 25 January 1890

Be ready to go at a moment’s notice…and don’t take no for an answer

Nellie portrait

Nellie Bly

Nellie’s story idea to race round the globe faster than Phileas Fogg sat on The New York World newspaper editor’s desk for a year.  Suddenly on 12 November 1889 Nellie was asked if she could start her journey ‘the day after tomorrow.” I can start this minute,” she said. When Nellie first introduced her ’round the world’ feature idea, her editor insisted that ‘only a man’ could do it. Nellie told him to assign a male; but she would take her idea to another paper and win the race. He conceded. In Nellie’s day, no-one would send a young woman to the far corners of the earth without a chaperone. In any case, the numerous trunks required by a female traveller would prevent the speedy connections necessary to win the race.

Pack lightly

Nellie took a small satchel (17.8 x 40.6 cms) and wore the same dress throughout the journey.

nellie's satchel at newseum

Nellie’s travel satchel

“One never knows the capacity of an ordinary hand satchel until dire necessity completes the exercise of all one’s ingenuity to reduce everything to the smallest possible compass,” she said.

She dismissed decorum.

“If one is travelling simply for the sake of travelling, and not for the purpose of impressing one’s fellow passengers, the problem of baggage becomes a very simple one. On one occasion–in Hong Kong when I was asked to an official dinner–I regretted not having an evening dress with me, but the loss of that dinner was a very small matter when compared with the responsibilities and worries I escaped by not having a lot of trunks and boxes to look after.”

She could have packed lighter.

“After, experience showed me that I had taken too much, rather than too little baggage.”

 But don’t forget your camera “The only regret of my trip, and one I could never cease to deplore, was that in my hasty departure, I forgot to take a Kodak.” Take (even more) risks                                                                                                                                                                  Nellie was only eight days into the race when she received word that Jules Verne, the author that inspired her own voyage with his novel Around the World in 80 days, wanted to meet her at his home in Amiens, France.

Félix_Nadar_1820-1910_portraits_Jules_Verne_(restoration)

Jules Verne

That would require a time-guzzling deviation threatening her success right from the start, not to mention two nights without sleep. She did it.

“Before I had been many minutes in their company, they had won my everlasting respect and devotion,” Nellie said of Jules Verne and his wife Honorine.

The feeling was mutual. Nellie’s visit lives on today in photos and references found in their home, Maison Jules Verne, now a first-rate museum attracting visitors from around the world. You can see where she had tea with the Vernes and view his study, just as it was when Nellie visited. Believe in humanity Nellie was encouraged to carry a revolver on her travel for protection. She refused.

 “I had such a strong belief in the world greeting me as I greeted it that I refused to arm myself.”

When encouraged to use a cane to ‘keep off the beggars’ in Port Said, Egypt, Nellie refused all offers to accept one saying “a stick beats more ugliness into a person than it beat out.” But keep your distance Nellie narrowly escaped death in the South China Sea from a love-sick passenger planning to take her in his arms and jump overboard so they could drift away and drown ‘in peaceful slumber.’ Hurry up and wait  Nellie was delayed five days in Colombo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka). She tempered her intense frustration with sightseeing during the day and balmy evenings at splendid Colonial hotels like the Grand Oriental Hotel that still delight guests. Lounging on the veranda at The Galle Face Hotel, Nellie reflected:

“while listening to the music of the wave, the deep, mellow roar can drift–drift out on dreams that bring what life has failed to give; soothing pictures of the imagination that blot out for a moment the stern disappointment of reality.”

Choose your souvenirs wisely

Nellie acquired a monkey in Singapore that she named McGinty.  McGinty travelled half-way round the world with Nellie, causing chaos on board; and later in her home.

  Make friends along the way

“To so many people this wide world over am I indebted for kindnesses that I cannot thank them all individually. They form a chain around the earth,” said Nellie. “Every kind act and thought, if but an unuttered wish, a cheer, a tiny flower, is imbedded in my memory as one of the pleasantest things of my novel tour.”