Imagining the year 2000 (in 1900)

19 Aug

The other day, I stumbled across these brilliant French illustrations imagining what life would be like in the year 2000. Issued between 1899 and 1910, they were enclosed inside cigarette/cigar boxes or sent as postcards, and the first series was produced for the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900.

It’s pretty funny now to look back at some of the artists’ predictions – one can’t help but think they might be a little bit disappointed with today’s lack of flying firemen and ever-present robots. But I wonder how many of our predictions for the year 3000 will come true (according to Busted, we’ll all be living underwater with lots of naked, triple-breasted women).

Anyway, here’s a few of the retro-futuristic illustrations by Villemard and Jean-Marc Côté (view the full set here):

Gravity-defying firemen

A conductor operates his mechanical orchestra

Madame at her toilette

Croquet in diving helmets!

A lazy teacher feeds textbooks into his pupils’ heads

Not all of them are so far-fetched though. This one is essentially Skype, albeit with vintage equipment…

Skype, retro-future style. Check out that hat…

And I’d be very grateful if anyone could explain this one to me. Some kind of equine theatre maybe? A fully-clothed version of Equus?

A horse on a stage. No idea what this one’s about…


12 Responses to “Imagining the year 2000 (in 1900)”

  1. robingotch August 20, 2012 at 12:51 am #

    I have an impression of what the last image – horse on stage – could represent. Consider the advent of the automobile at this time and people concerned about the horse becoming obsolete. I would venture to guess that this is a rare “treat” for children of the future to see a real-live horse.

    The image of the “lazy teacher” is poignant for me. Are we sure that this has not come to pass in some ways? I have seen too many educators rely on computers and other visual devices to do their teaching for them in our new, technological society. As a student of communication, I fear for the day that real conversations will go the way of the horse in these images.

  2. katkasia August 20, 2012 at 1:20 am #

    The horse on stage is rather baffling. Maybe it’s people being amazed by the sight of a horse? In an age when many of the vehicles would have been horse drawn, perhaps it’s an illustration of people of the future no longer being dependent on horses?

  3. Indrakumar August 20, 2012 at 4:45 am #

    very nice share about the old and rare Illustrations..

  4. Alex Brown August 20, 2012 at 10:33 am #

    We may not have underwater croquet, but we do have underwater ironing:

    And we do have airborne firemen of sorts in the form of Canadairs…

  5. Alex Brown August 20, 2012 at 10:40 am #

    Reblogged this on Alexander Brown .info and commented:
    My friend James has highlighted some curious French images of futurology from 1900. It’s fascinating to see how the people making these imagined changes to technology, but not to fashion…

  6. thesoftanonymous August 20, 2012 at 11:37 am #

    @Robin, Kasia Yep, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with the horse one… I guess a modern equivalent of that image might have a book or a postbox on the stage (though that wouldn’t really be much of a spectacle!).

    @Alex Yeah, it’s funny how they assumed we’d all still be wearing knickerbockers and oversized hats 😀

  7. Daniel September 4, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    Looks like liked your post…

    Hope you received some dosh?

  8. Jessee October 4, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

    1. Gravity-defying firemen = fire fighting helicopters
    2. Mechanical orchestra = computer animated characters in motion pictures that are directed by real humans
    3. Madame at her toilette = Japanese bidet
    4. Croquet in diving helmet = Suba
    5. lazy teacher = Udacity

    • Jessee October 4, 2012 at 10:28 pm #

      I meant “Snuba” for 4.

    • thesoftanonymous October 4, 2012 at 11:10 pm #

      I like the analogies! The illustrators were at least halfway there then.

  9. jacob gatsby December 16, 2016 at 3:27 am #

    I’ve seen this before, with more context. The horse-on-stage is indeed the showing-off of a real live horse to people who’ve never seen one before. The horse being ubiquitous in 1900, yet the automobile clearly making significant inroads, this prediction was saying that the automobile would make horses so rare that many people would never have seen one. That’s actually true; there are plenty of people living in the city centers who’ve never been to a farm. Or a beach, or a zoo. I have two nephews who’ve never been to any of those places, or even on a picnic.

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