Past Visions of the Future Present

Artists of the past envisioned us riding whale buses, fishing for seagulls, playing underwater croquet, and dropping fire from the sky.

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Over a century ago, the artists drew visions of today. Look.

They have us us commuting via underwater buses driven by harnessed whales, while the ladies in their dresses don scuba gear for an afternoon of underwater sport. Apparently, by now we are so bored with underwater discovery that all we can think to do down there is play, of all games, croquet. To do her toilette in preparation for such an event, Madame takes a seat in a special chair. One machine buffs her feet, another her nails, while the arms of yet another behind and beside her get to work on her hair and face. It seems to be taken for granted that after a century of progress, such matters will continue to be Madame’s chief concern.

There are special cars for battle. Also torpedo planes, ariel combat. War imagery, it seems, was most accurate.

Going to the theatre? Let’s take an aero-cab! Firefighters wear wings like bats and the postman flies the mail in the posture of one of those dragon-riding children from popular films. To go out for an afternoon ride might mean saddling a giant seahorse. Children don scuba-gear to fish for seagulls above.

Farming would be a matter of controlling machines from a central location. The man at the gears might survey the vast acres being worked and never glimpse a human form. There would be homes on wheels, rolling through the countryside. Clothing would be printed, and children wearing wings would make a game of robbing an eagle’s nest.

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Notes:

 “A 19th Century Vision of the Year 2000” featured on Public Domain Review highlights the images created by Jean-Marc Côté and other artists, produced for the 1900 world exhibit in Paris. They would most likely have been lost, had Isaac Asimov not chanced upon a set in 1986, which he published, with commentary, in his book Futuredays: A Nineteenth Century Vision of the Year 2000.

Author: Stacey C. Johnson

I am here to wonder out loud. The point is not to get a clear answer, a complete picture, but to remember how incomplete the picture is, to embrace the process once again, of discovery, of questions, to notice the stirrings of wonder. To leave crumbs behind, for the next traveler.

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