Nellie Bly (1864-1922)
Best known as an investigative journalist whose undercover stint inside a mental institution loosely inspired Sarah Paulson’s character on “American Horror Story: Asylum,” Nellie Bly was also one heck of a world traveler, although she didn’t exactly stick around long in the far-flung locales she visited. After all, she had a record to beat.
On Nov. 24, 1889, the 25-year-old Bly (born Elizabeth Jane Cochrane) set out to one-up fictional Victorian globetrotter Phileas Fogg by circumnavigating the world in less than 80 days. Seventy-two days, six hours, 11 minutes and 14 seconds later, Bly had conquered the Jules Verne protagonist’s time with her whirlwind — and mostly solo — trip from New York to New York with stops in England, France, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong and San Francisco. Like Fogg, Bly traveled strictly by rail and steamer. Hot air balloons never entered the equation. Bly’s nearly 25,000 mile adventure, sponsored by Joseph Pulitzer-published newspaper The New York World, was beaten just a few months later by world-class eccentric dude George Francis Train, who completed the journey in 67 days.