the year 1872 for travelers | THIRTEEN

Christina Chevalier | December 26, 2021

From left to right: Ibrahim Koma (PASSEPARTOUT), David Tennant (PHILEAS FOGG) and Leonie Benesch (ABIGAIL “FIX” FORTESCUE) in Around the World in 80 Days.

Our Virtual Passport is wide open to travel impossible in period dramas, but for the curious, here’s a look at actual events that might have piqued the interest of a Victorian-era world traveler – and of the world. adventure author Jules Verne, himself. Before packing for Around the world in 80 days, the PBS adaptation which premiered on January 2, let’s take a minute to review what the world is like in 1872.

The eight-part series is set in 1872, the year that Verne’s Travel Adventure was printed as a series (Around the world in 80 days was published as a novel in 1873). The television series, shot on location on two continents, follows a group of three as they travel around the world via ships, trains, balloons, camels, stagecoaches and other means.

A historical precedent for adventure tales

French author Jules Verne based his British character Phileas Fogg on American traveler William Perry Fogg. Fogg’s letters describing his travels were published in a series by The Cleveland Leader newspaper, titled “Round the World: Letters from Japan, China, India, and Egypt” (1872).

The father of modern tourism, the Englishman Thomas Cook, organized the first round the world tour for tourists in 1872, which left England in September and returned seven months later. The World Heritage Foundation documented Cook’s remarks on the heritage sites visited by his group.

The United States in 1872

A man in a 19th-century three-piece suit walks through a dusty plaza with American wooden structures, including a butcher's shop and a church or town hall

David Tennant (Phileas Fogg) in Around the World in 80 Days.

The same year that Around the world in 80 days is set – 1872 – an epidemic raged, from Canada to Central America, which completely crushed supply chains and more. It is the equine flu, which has affected a major source of transport of people and goods, in the countryside as in town. In Smithsonian Magazine, Eric Freeberg writes about this horse epidemic – which has also led to animal rights activism in New York City. This series lands in the Big Apple, but horses or epidemics play no role.

The Civil War has been over since 1865, and black men have had the constitutional right to vote for two years. The 1872 Amnesty Act restored full civil rights, including the right to hold office, to most of the 150,000 former Confederate officials and leaders who fought to secede from the United States. On Tuesday, November 5, 1872, outgoing President Ulysses S. Grant was re-elected.

The first transcontinental railroad in the United States had been completed in 1869, thanks to many Chinese Americans and Chinese immigrants whose work reduced the journey from several months to less than a week. In western states and territories, thefts and shootings are on the increase; and the same is true of violence against Native Americans. In the 1870s, the fastest speed a train could travel was 80 mph, and only at a rare level, immediately. Japan inaugurated its first railway in 1872, which linked Tokyo to the southern bay city of Yokohama (today a 47-minute train ride). China did not support the development of the railway until the 1880s.

Almost all immigrants to the United States from Ireland, England and Europe crossed the Atlantic Ocean by steamboat in 1872, a journey of about two weeks.

Two enduring resources for appreciating the world, from its nature to its arts, are launched in New York: the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Popular Science magazine.

England and elsewhere, 1872

Television with adobe structures, possibly in North Africa, and men wearing turbans and dresses.  A woman walks with a white parasol.

Scene from Around the World in 80 Days.

Around the world the characters Phileas Fogg and Abigail “Fix” Fortescue are from England, where Queen Victoria remained on the English throne in 1872 (aspects of the beginning of the reign are seen in the Masterpiece drama Victoria and reality show Victorian slum). Their travel companion Passepartout hails from Paris, France, where Emperor Napoleon III’s Second Empire ended in 1871 with the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War. The new French Third Republic is still recovering from the war and clashes with the workers’ movement of the Paris Commune (we will see members at the start of this Around the world).

Hot air balloon travel was nothing new in 1872, and the protagonists of the series will make it fly. Aeronaut Charles Green traveled 500 miles from England to Germany in 1836 for the adventure of this one. The Germans and the French used them for military scouting during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-1871.

The Challenger Expedition sets out from England to establish the realm of oceanography on a four-year voyage that also uncovers 4,700 species of marine life.


An English Assyriologist makes the first translation of the oldest known work in literature, the epic of Gilgamesh, a poem from ancient Mesopotamia (the region of Iran, Syria and Turkey, Kuwait) which includes a king’s journey to the underworld.

The Australian Overland Telegraph Line is established, creating the continent’s first telegraph link with the rest of the world.

In 1873, a little over a week after the travelers of Around the world in 80 days hope to complete their journey, Europe and North America will fall into the panic of 1873, a financial depression once known as the Great Depression until 1929. If travelers go back in time, they had better do it. use their $ 3 million winnings wisely.

The eight-part drama Around the world in 80 days airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on PBS, starting Jan. 2, 2022.


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