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Meet the celebrities of the 1880s

This illustration was created by Ramona Muse Lambert for The Kids Gazette.

Nellie Bly

Nellie Bly was a journalist who for years was expected to write stories that her editors thought only other women would read.

So Bly moved to New York City in 1886 in search of a newspaper that had her write more serious articles, according to the National Women’s History Museum. Then she went undercover for the New York world pretending to be mentally ill to gain access to an institution that allegedly abuses its patients.

Ten Days in a Mad House was a six-part series that immediately made Bly famous. Their approach has also helped develop the practice of investigative journalism that many journalists still practice today – although undercover reporting is less common.

Bly, who was only 22 years old when she covered her groundbreaking series, was inspired by the book Around the World in 80 Days. She set out on her own journey around the world – and did better, in 72 days, a world record at the time.

Booker T. Washington

Booker T. Washington, the most influential African American speaker of the day, was enslaved until he was nine years old. When the Civil War ended, he, his mother, and siblings began a life of freedom in West Virginia.

Washington had to go to work at 4 a.m. before school every morning, five hours before going to class, according to the History Channel. On his second job, he heard about a school for formerly enslaved people, the Hampton Institute in Virginia, and he walked 500 miles to get there.

In 1881, Washington became the first principal of Tuskegee University, then called The Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, a new school in Alabama that accepted African American students. Washington even hired George Washington Carver, the first black student at Iowa State University, to teach agriculture.

Washington was director of the institute until his death in 1915. During this time, he became the first African American to be invited to the White House and was a leading voice in people born into slavery.

Doc vacation

Legendary dentist who became gunslinger Doc Holliday walked west from his hometown in Georgia at the age of 23. He began gambling and built a reputation for card games and violence in Dallas, Texas – he eventually fled Dallas after being charged with murder.

Holliday moved through the old west and ended up in Dodge City, Kansas. There he befriended Wyatt Earp, whom he followed to Tombstone, Arizona.

In October 1881, Holliday and Earp were part of “the most legendary shootout ever fought in the American West,” according to Biography.com. Thirty shots were fired at the OK Corral in 30 seconds. Three men died and several were injured, including Holliday.

Several years later, in 1887, Holliday died of a disease called tuberculosis. The outlaw has since been immortalized in several films.

Sherlock Holmes

OK, this iconic detective wasn’t a real person. But the fictional character from the head of the author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had his first appearance in an 1887 novel.

Conan Doyle wrote Holmes as a shrewd, clever, and logical detective who could solve almost any puzzle. The character was a hit – according to Guinness World Records, Holmes has been featured more on television and in films than any other literary human figure in history. In the 134 years since its debut, more than 75 actors have played the detective.

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