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The Paleo-Future blog was started by Matt Novak in January of 2007. Matt has since become an accidental expert on past visions of the future, and has amassed the world's largest (only?) library of media related to the study of paleo-futurism.
The July 10, 1873 Decatur Republican (Decatur, IL) describes, in a rather condescending manner, a prediction of one Professor Plantamour. It seems Plantamour was fond of making predictions involving comets, predicting in 1872 that Plantamour's Comet would collide with Earth on August 12, 1873. After it was fairly certain that such an event would not take place Prof. Plantamour moved his disaster dates further into the future. In the case of this prediction from 1873, the year 2011 would bring about a completely frozen Earth.
This image, depicting many different flying machines, is from the Library of Congress, dated circa 1885. The full image appears below along with many different cropped versions showing the detail of the piece. The Library of Congress description of the engraving also appears below.
These French cards, archived at the Library of Congress, were produced sometime between 1890 and 1900. Most of the cards illustrate important feats from ballooning history between 1795-1846, while card number two (pictured above) depicts futuristic visions of flight from the 1800s.
This September 21, 1919 piece in the Nevada State Journal (Reno, NV) was titled "Giant Air Cruisers To Link Cities of World, Predicts British Expert." The most interesting part of the article is by far the "Aerial Time Table." Just 7 days from London to Perth? Amazing!
The Daily Chronicle, which indulges in a bit of fanciful prophecy, publishes this airship table:
From London to:
New York: 2 to 2.5 days
San Francisco: 4.5 days
Cairo: 1.5 days
Perth, Australia: 7 days
Cape Town: 5.5 days
Rio de Janeiro: 4 days
"Airships would have saloons rivaling those of great steamships for comfort," says the Chronicle. "As lightness is essential, practically everything would be made of aluminum alloy, as strong as steel and one-third the weight."
It is astonishing how many predictions of the early 20th century assumed animals (that is, all animals) would eventually be extinct simply because they were not needed by humans. A piece by John Elfreth Watkins, Jr. in the December, 1900 Ladies Home Journal predicted that there would be, "no wild animals except in menageries." The article above, from the November 11, 1926 Galveston Daily News (Galveston, TX), operated under similar assumptions. Titled, "To Find Some Use For Every Wild Animal," the piece assumed that in the future animals would have to justify their existence by proving their usefulness to humankind. That's a far cry from today when we're trying to save polar bears, which everyone knows are lazy and deceitful. I mean really, what has a polar bear done for you lately?
This illustration of international travel in the future, complete with robotic red-cap porters, appeared in the December 4, 1932 San Antonio Light (San Antonio, TX). It seems that all you need to do is step into the tube of your choice, then be shot out via capsule to your final destination. The design has a very Rube Goldberg feel to it. Why one must first go down a slide, before ascending stairs couldn't be confirmed by presstime. The caption that accompanied the illustration is below.
It's amazing how popular the idea of roofing in an entire city was in the 20th century. The concept of one day controlling the weather was likely exciting because it meant absolute domination over nature and one's environment. I suspect to conquer weather was the penultimate in shaping humankind's destiny, while the ultimate was likely immortality. (Someone's still working on that one, right?)
The November 30, 1958 edition of This Week magazine ran this illustration of the flying family car. The image accompanied a larger piece about Army vehicles of the future. Best thing about the article? It promised that this flying car could be a reality within two years.
The August 6, 1961 Post-Standard Sunday magazine (Syracuse, NY) ran a short piece about an Experimental Engineering class at UCLA that was experimenting/playing with a "moon man's suit." Designed by Allyn B. Hazard, the suit also appeared on the cover of Life magazine's April 27, 1962 issue.
In 1900 John Elfreth Watkins, Jr., author of many detective and mystery novels, wrote a piece for the December issue of Ladies Home Journal speculating about what the next hundred years held. Everything from weather control to pneumatic tube delivery to the science that will surely bring "strawberries as large as apples" were predicted. According to the book Yesterday's Future: The Twentieth Century Begins the Watkins article was translated into German for the Milwaukee Herold und Seebote (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) in 1901.