Nellie Bly – Inventor of the Steel Barrel

American journalist, Elizabeth Cochrane, better known by her pen name Nellie Bly had her 151st birthday on May 5th, 2015 in celebration of which, Google released a harmonious doodle. Nellie Bly was often looked at as an iconic character who encouraged women to become journalists. It is rumoured that her ground-breaking spirit became more pronounced after the death of her father when she was only 6 years old.

Nellie Bly was only 18 when she so overwhelmed a newspaper editor at The Pittsburgh Dispatch that she was asked to begin her journalism career immediately. By the time she was in her twenties, she was a world renowned journalist. In 1895, Nellie retired from reporting for a while when she married businessman Robert Seaman, in unusual haste, only a few days after they met. She was still in her twenties, while he was 72, but the marriage seemed contented and provided the monetary security she always wanted. After her husband’s death, she ran his business, the Iron Clad Manufacturing Co., where she again established her creativity. As metal became an inexpensive substitution for wooden containers, she invented a steel barrel that became a replica for the widely used 55-gallon drum. She turned the businesses that she inherited, into multimillion-dollar companies and continued her social reforms by paying her workers well. In 1901, Pan-American trade fair, Iron Clad factories were promoted as being, “Owned exclusively by Nellie Bly – the only woman in the world personally managing industries of such a magnitude.”

In 1904, during her visit to Europe, Bly saw Glycerin containers made of steel. She then said, “I determined to make steel containers for the American trade.” Her first experiment leaked and the second was defective. Finally in 1905 she made her dream come true “finally worked out the steel package to perfection, patented the design, put it on the market and taught the American public to use the steel barrel” she said. Iron Clad Manufacturing Company in due course succumbed to debt, and Bly returned to newspaper reporting, covering women’s suffrage events and Europe’s Eastern Front during the war. Her steel barrels eventually became the all-pervading 55-gallon drums of today. Elizabeth Jane Cochran Seaman died of pneumonia in 1922 – two years after the 19th Amendment tenable her right to vote. She is known as, “the best reporter in America,” by the New York Evening Journal. She should always be remembered for her exceptional involvement of uplifting women’s contribution to America’s petroleum history.

Source: Here and here

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