A Flying Trip Around the World ... In Seven Stages.
“I should be forced to get ready in five hours for a seventy-five days voyage around the world…”
Victorian Female Journalist vs. Same. Elizabeth Bisland’s 1891 account of her “race around-the-world” to beat another “Elizabeth” —Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman— better known as Nelly Bly:
“Late in 1889 [Joseph] Pulitzer sent her around the world, by commercial transportation, to challenge the eighty-day record of Jules Verne’s fictional hero, Phileas Fogg [Around the World in Eighty Days]. Leaving in mid-November with a minimum of baggage, she crossed the Atlantic and the Mediterranean; proceeded to Aden, Colombo, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo and San Francisco; and returned to New York on Jan. 25, 1890, after a journey of seventy-two days, six hours, and eleven minutes. Giving front-page space to her descriptions of travel by train, steamer, ricksha, and sampan, the World had skillfully kept public attention focused on her progress. The trip itself was exotic and exciting, and Nellie Bly seemed to embody the romance of journalism, the lure of travel, and the pluck of the American girl. Songs and dances were dedicated to her, clothes, games, and toys named after her, and parades organized in her honor.” (NAW)
Seeking to piggyback on Bly’s stunt, Cosmopolitan sent Bisland —on five hour’s notice— to chase after Bly (and Fogg) while traveling in the opposite direction. Bly only learned over her fellow competitor when she reached Hong Kong.
By train, ferry, and steamship the race was on as the adventures of both women —now international journalists— were covered by The New York Times and other newspapers although Bisland’s narrative was widely-overshadowed by that of Bly’s. While Bly won the race, Bisland and Cosmpolitan’s readers were consoled by the fact that she had at least beaten Phileas Fogg.
Published one year after the race, A Flying Trip Around the World… Bisland gives her account of the event. We believe the book sold poorly: the public’s curiosity at the then-novelty of two women journalists racing across the globe had been satiated. And, anyway, to the victor belong the spoils.
Description: A Flying Trip Around the World ... In Seven Stages.
New York: Harper & Brothers, 1891. First edition. Portrait frontispiece, 204, , [2 (ads) pages. Publisher’s ornamental cloth. Spine toned and faintly-rolled; portrait faintly foxed; a lovely copy.
See Marks, Jason. Around the World in 72 Days: The Race Between Pulitzer’s Nellie Bly and Cosmopolitan’s Elizabeth Bisland (Gemittarius Press,1993). Goodman, Eighty Days. Nelly Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World. (Random House, 2013). Bisland would later edit The Life and Letters of Lafcadio Hearn in 1906.