Nov. 14, 1889. Nellie Bly packed her single hand bag so efficiently, that it would put to shame even today’s most seasoned frequent flyers. Hours later, Elizabeth Bisland’s editor gave her an impossible departure time. He convinced her to race both Phileas Fogg and Nellie Bly around the world. It took a lot of convincing. She finally agreed. Elizabeth Bisland raced Nellie Bly with one steamer trunk.
According to Bisland’s article published in Cosmopolitan Magazine:
“If my appetite for mystery at that hour is not strong, my appetite at eleven in the morning for even the most excruciatingly funny jokes may be said to actually not exist, and this one, I remember, bored me more than most.“
Bisland protested bitterly to her editor. She had no taste for travel on such a ridiculous deadline, had no interest in having her name in front of her reading public, and most importantly, she had several guests coming to tea the next day.
Mysteriously, Elizabeth Bisland’s editor managed to convince her to launch on a journey later that very evening. She would be traveling in the opposite direction as Nellie Bly. Elizabeth Bisland was to take a westward coarse, on an experimental mail train across the United States headed for San Francisco.
What argument convinced Bisland to embark on this incredible race around the world with Nellie Bly? Was it money? Bisland own hunger for notoriety? Or was it her infamous rivalry with Nellie Bly who had become her arch rival? No one will ever know. All that Bisland wrote was this:
“The editor and I having passed the better part of an hour going over this matter, substantial arguments were finally advanced by him which persuaded me to make the experiment of lowering the circumnavigatory record.”
After this argument, Bisland took a cab to her tailor and convinced him to finish her gown by six o’clock that evening.
“To wake up in the morning to one’s usual daily duties and find one’s self at night voyaging round the world is an experience calculated to surprise… I was practically stupefied with astonishment for at least two days.”
According to Elizabeth Bisland, she managed to get all absolute necessaries of travel into a good-sized steamer trunk, a large Gladstone bag and a shawl-strap. In 1889, a lady wouldn’t dream of undertaking such a trip with less than several steamer trunks. For whatever reason, the very proper and sophisticated Miss Bisland, “managed” the trip with two cloth gowns, half a dozen light bodices, and an evening silk.
“Happily I took the precaution of carrying plenty of pins and hair-pins. I had had some previous experience with their vicious ways, and well knew that in critical moments in foreign parts they would get up playful little games of hide-and-seek that would tend to undermine my temper.”
What other necessities Bisland carried in her trunk we can only imagine. Cold remedies? Electropathic footsocks? Cold cream and Smedley’s Chili paste?
Why do you think Elizabeth Bisland agreed to challenge Nellie Bly in her race around the world in less than eighty days?
Racing Nellie Bly
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