Nellie Bly

Nellie Bly landing soon at Pittsburgh Int’l Airport

Nellie Bly – Courtesy Library of Congress

We take a short break from coronavirus coverage and anxiety today to give a cheer for Pittsburgh International Airport, which is celebrating Women’s History Month by putting a statue of legendary traveler and early investigative journalist Nellie Bly in the terminal.

Bly, the pen name for Elizabeth Seaman Cochran, grew up in Western Pennsylvania and in 1885 went to work for the Pittsburgh Dispatch, which is now the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She moved to New York City in 1887 to work for the New York World and wrote a groundbreaking expose of the terrible conditions at a mental institution by posing as a patient.

In 1889 she set off for a trip about the world, determined to break the fictional record of Phileas Fogg, whose journey was described by Jules Verne in his 1873 novel, “Around the World in Eighty Days.”

Bly left Hoboken, New Jersey by ship and completed the trip in 72 days, 6 hours 11 minutes and 14 seconds, traveling by horse, rickshaw, sampan, burro and other vehicles along the way.

Courtesy University of Iowa Libraries

“Round the World” board game. Courtesy University of Iowa Libraries.

Her 1890 book chronicling the adventure is “Around the World in Seventy-Two Days.”

Pittsburgh International Airport already has two statues in the terminal: George Washington and Franco Harris, a legendary Pittsburgh Steelers player.

Those statues are stationed in the PIT terminal as promotions for the city’s Heinz History Center and are popular spots for selfies.

At the end of March, to mark Women’s History Month and the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, the Heinz History Center will add Nellie Bly’s statue to the PIT terminal.

Courtesy PIT Airport. Photo by Beth Hollerich