In 1873, French author Jules Verne published a novel called Around the World in 80 Days. In it, a fictional hero named Phileas Fogg circles the globe on a bet. But no real person had attempted the feat. In 1889, bored and seeking adventure, Bly proposed that she attempt it as a publicity stunt for The World.
Bly traveled alone with a single satchel and a coat that became her trademark. While in France, she met Jules Verne and his wife. Mrs. Verne commented on Bly: “She is trim, energetic, and strong. I believe, Jules, that she will make your heroes look foolish.” Verne agreed with a laugh.
Newspaper sales skyrocketed as New Yorkers, then the rest of the country, bought copies of The World to keep track of Bly’s whereabouts. After a couple of near-disasters in catching departing steamships, she arrived back in New York in 72 days, 6 hours, and 11 minutes — beating Phileas Fogg’s time by more than a week.