The Original Amazing Race

In October 1936, three journalists battled to circle the globe first.

Dorothy Kilgallen in the 1930s, when she was a correspondent for the New York Evening Journal and International News (--)

You’ve seen television’s The Amazing Race, in which teams race around the world by airplane, truck, bus, boat, and on foot, hoping to come in first. But the concept isn’t new. Some 75 years ago, three newspaper journalists competed to see who could traverse the globe in the shortest amount of time. The three wrote daily installments about their experiences for their respective newspapers, and one of the journalists, Dorothy Kilgallen of the New York Evening Journal and International News, gathered her columns into a book titled Girl Around the World, published in 1936. Here are some excerpts:

...Aboard the Hindenburg:

Nellie Bly [a journalist who circled the world in 1889-90] did the world in 72 days, but she wore a bustle and didn’t have airplanes.

I love calling a young man on the telephone and saying, “Sorry I can’t go to the Harvard-Yale game. I’m on my way to Hong Kong.” I’m getting quite blasé about it already.

We passed over a steamer—it looked for all the world like a rowboat. A westerly wind pushed us along, and we zoomed at a neat 64 miles an hour. But the officers, goaded by three jittery world-girdlers increased the speed. Capt. Max Pruss barked the order: “More speed.” And instantly the baritone of the quartette of motors swelled into a tenor hum.

The shadow of this ship is sliding over the Black Forests [sic] of Germany now, and soon we will be settling down at Frankfurt-am-Main.... I had hoped [the sun] would rise earlier over the English Channel and splash Ireland in the early light of dawn. I wished that because I felt homesick—for a land I had never seen. [She explains that her ancestors came from Ireland.]

They tell me that 250 Nazi Storm Troops will wait at the airport until the Hindenburg heaves into sight at 9 o’clock this morning.

...A late arrival caused missed flights and trains. Kilgallen hopped a flight to Munich, then a train to Brindisi.

The streets of Florence were just a moving mass of parading young Fascisti. As our train rolled in to the platform a whole trainload of young soldiers stood up and cheered. They presented me with a bouquet of deep red carnations. It’s so hard to tell you about the Italian landscape. The skies are so incredibly blue. The sun streams brilliantly athwart the whole colorful picture. And the Italians themselves seem to be the best looking people in the world.

We sighted the isles of Greece at 1:40 p.m., Brindisi time. They are everything Byron and Shelley wrote about them.

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