Nellie Bly’s 1889 Trip ‘Around the World’ Goes Digital

History center celebrates legendary journalist’s adventure ahead of PIT honors

By Matt Neistei

Published November 30, 2020

Read Time: 2 mins


Travelers could take a few lessons from famed journalist and globetrotter Nellie Bly.

When she departed for her legendary trip around the world on Nov. 14, 1889, she carried one bag about the size of a toaster oven. And into this satchel she packed two caps, three veils, slippers, toiletries, an ink stand, pens, pencils, paper, pins, needles and thread, a dressing gown, a tennis blazer, a small flask, a drinking cup, fresh underwear, handkerchiefs, spare fabric and a jar of cold cream.

Talk about maximizing your luggage space.

That list is just one of many fascinating details revealed in the Senator John Heinz History Center’s ongoing virtual re-creation of Bly’s record-setting jaunt, “Nellie Bly: Around the World.”

Bly, the pseudonym for Elizabeth Cochran, grew up outside of Pittsburgh in Cochran’s Mills, Pa., and started her journalism career at the Pittsburgh Dispatch. Later, as a reporter for the New York World, she set off on a journey to beat the record of fictional character Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne’s classic, “Around the World in Eighty Days.”

Bly grew up in nearby Cochran’s Mills, PA and started her journalism career at the Pittsburgh Dispatch. (Stock image)

She completed her trip in 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes and 14 seconds.

History center researchers are documenting Bly’s 19th-century trip using 21st-century tools. From blog posts to social media entries, observers can follow the Western Pennsylvania native’s travels in real time 131 years later.

While Bly set off on her adventure from New York City aboard a steamship, her presence soon will be felt at the most modern of travel ports.

In March, Pittsburgh International Airport and the history center unveiled a detailed figure of Bly that will be stationed in the Airside Terminal next to the airport’s signature figures of George Washington and Franco Harris.

A Heinz History Center figure of Bly is expected to be installed inside PIT’s Airside Terminal in early 2021. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)

“The history of Western Pennsylvania cannot be told without noting the accomplishments of so many great women,” PIT CEO Christina Cassotis said at the time. “It is important to us that those stories be told, and we’re honored to recognize Nellie Bly’s groundbreaking achievements.”

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic paused plans to install Bly’s figure last spring, but airport and history center officials hope to finally bring Bly home in early 2021.

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