This year for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I’m writing about the 1800s in celebration of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s race around the world in 1889, the subject of my new novel based on this adventure: Liz and Nellie.


augusta victoria

Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland spent a lot of time on various steamships, the most important form of transportation in their race around the world. Nellie started out going east aboard the Augusta Victoria, the newest, most luxurious ship of the day (pictured above). It was decked out in Rocco-style furnishings, very luxurious. She ate with the captain and slept all day, waiting for her sea sickness to calm down.

To pass the time, passengers played deck games like quoits, a game played with rings and targets. The passengers would also get up sing-a-longs and talent shows and tableaux vivants. A tableaux vivant is a “living picture.” Actors would arrange themselves behind a curtain into a scene, the curtain drawn back, and the actors hold their pose, not moving.

The passengers endeavored to make the time pass pleasantly between Aden and Colombo. The young women had some tableaux vivants one evening, and they were really very fine. In one they wished to represent the different countries. They asked me to represent America, but I refused, and then they asked me to tell them what the American flag looked like! They wanted to represent one as nearly as possible and to rise it to drape the young woman who was to represent America. Another evening we had a lantern slide exhibition that was very enjoyable. –Nellie Bly

(Looks like my S day just turned into a T day! Couldn’t help it…I thought these were really interesting. Aside: If you are a teacher, here is a fun tableaux vivant exercise to do at an art museum: Tableaux Vivant History and Practice)

Here is a look at a modern-day tableaux vivant behind-the-scenes:

(See also O is for Oceanic)

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