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Historical society celebrates 150th anniversary of journalist Nellie Bly's birth

| Monday, May 5, 2014, 7:34 a.m.
Dan Speicher | For Valley News Dispatch
Nellie Bly portayed by Bree McNemar, 15 of Apollo, and Phileas Fogg (from the Jules Verne novel 'Around the World in 80 Days') portrayed by Victor Valco 17, or Apollo, quiz the audience about the lives of their portrayed characters as part of the 'Happy Birthday Nellie Bly' program at the Apollo Area Historical Society, celebrating the 150th birthday of Apollo's most famous daughter, on Sunday May 4, 2014.
Dan Speicher | For Valley News Dispatch
Sue Ott, Vice President of the Apollo Area Historical Society, gives a power point presentation about Nellie Bly, the investigative journalist born Elizabeth Jane Cochrane on May 5, 1864, as part of the 'Happy Birthday Nellie Bly' program commemorating the 150th birthday of Apollo's most famous daughter, as Nellie Bly portayed by Bree McNemar, 15 of Apollo, and Phileas Fogg (from the Jules Verne novel 'Around the World in 80 Days') portrayed by Victor Valco 17, or Apollo, prepare to quiz the audience about their lives, on Sunday May 4, 2014.
Dan Speicher | For Valley News Dispatch
Sue Ott, Vice President of the Apollo Area Historical Society, gives a power point presentation about Nellie Bly, the investigative journalist born Elizabeth Jane Cochrane on May 5, 1864, as part of the 'Happy Birthday Nellie Bly' program commemorating the 150th birthday of Apollo's most famous daughter, on Sunday May 4, 2014.
Dan Speicher | For Valley News Dispatch
Sue Ott, Vice President of the Apollo Area Historical Society, gives a power point presentation about Nellie Bly, the investigative journalist born Elizabeth Jane Cochrane on May 5, 1864, as part of the 'Happy Birthday Nellie Bly' program commemorating the 150th birthday of Apollo's most famous daughter, on Sunday May 4, 2014.

About 30 people joined the Apollo Area Historical Society on Sunday to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of the borough's most famous daughter.

Her name was Elizabeth Cochran, but most people know her as Nellie Bly. That's the pen name she made famous in the late 19th century through undercover and investigative journalism as an industry trail blazer for women.

Her work made an international impact and took her to every corner of the globe. But the decade she spent in the small Armstrong County borough is what motivates the historical society to keep her legacy alive.

“A lot of people know about Nellie, but they tend to overlook the fact that she spent 10 years living right here in Apollo,” said Sue Ott, vice president of the Apollo Area Historical Society. “We want people to know that she made a tremendous impact and she had an uncompromising sense of ambition that the people of Apollo could learn from.”

The historical society has celebrated Bly's legacy annually on the Sunday closest to her May 5 birthday for at least 15 years, Ott said.

For what would have been her 150th, the group organized a slide show presentation and showed YouTube videos that touched on her life and career.

Two Apollo-Ridge High School drama club members — Bree McNemar and Victor Valco — gave an in-character trivia quiz as Bly and Phileas Fogg, the fictional protagonist of Jules Verne's “Around the World in 80 Days.” Bly used Fogg's fictional achievement as inspiration to sail around the world in 1889.

Historical Society secretary Alan Morgan said the annual celebration is just one way the group has sought to honor Bly, who lived in Apollo from ages 6 to 16 in the 1870s.

In 1995, it had a historical land marker placed in front of the Terrace Avenue house where she lived. About 10 years ago, the group unsuccessfully filed a petition to name the First Street bridge in her honor.

“We do what we can to keep her memory alive,” he said.

“She was a pioneer and really an incredible person. It would be a shame to let her memory fade over time.”

Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or bashe@tribweb.com.

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