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The Predictions of a 14-Year-Old (Milwaukee Excelsior, 1901)

In the year 1901 Arthur Palm, a fourteen-year-old student from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, published an article in his school newspaper (the Excelsior) describing the world of 2001. Below is an excerpt of his article as featured in the book Yesterday's Future: The Twentieth Century Begins (Voices of the Wisconsin Past).

"How it may appear a hundred years hence, when modern inventions have been carried to their highest point of development that even Edison would feel jealous of the great inventions in the year 2001. In the year 2001 you will see sky-scrapers sticking far above the clouds over 200 stories high. On the streets there will not be any room for street cars, so they will build lines way up in the air, and there will be landings fastened to the high skyscrapers, where the people will wait for the cars. The carlines will have different kinds of names and you will see the name "Manhattan Air Line" many hundreds of feet above the ground. You see air-ships and carriages fastened to balloons for the transportation of the people through the air, and you will often see collisions in the clouds. In one of the sky-scrapers on the 119 story you will see a sign, 'Old People Restored to Youth by Electricity, While You Wait.'"

The belief that electricity would eventually cure all ills was surprisingly common. I guess that's why I'm so amazed that people still receive electro-shock therapy. It seems so primitive and naive.

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Reader Comments (82)

He was right on the right track at least. It is all a little exaggerated, but for the skyscrapers, if you look at Dubai, the guy was spot on!
As far as electricity development, people always thought of it as hyper fast advancements. Just 20 years ago, a lot of people thought we would have and live with robots by the year 2000." REL="nofollow">OhCash Business

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Peter

But they couldn't have anticipated so many things because they hadn't been discovered. Stem cells, the internet, nuclear power, etc. Any guess we could make about the state of technology a century from now would probably seem just as naive to someone in 2107.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Electroshock therapy works. It used to be the only effective treatment for depression, but now it's a last resort. The fact that we still have to use it probably shows that our psychiatric drugs will be considered laughably primitive in the future.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

This guy pwned the future.


April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I wouldn't go so far as to say electroconvulsive therapy definitely works always. But it does work very often when absolutely nothing else does.

(My girlfriend is a mental health social worker; when she was in a grad school internship she had to watch ECT performed a few times. Apparently it's quite humanely done now, nothing like the horror stories of last century.)

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterjameshcunningham

ECT is performed humanely now, in the sense that the recepient is put to sleep before the procedure. It's no longer the torture it once was.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Just to be clear about the lines attached to buildings part: at first I thought to myself that his prediction was naive; but the first part of his prediction describes exactly Washington D.C.'s metro system. I wait in line for the elevated (and subterranean) cars every day.

As for the second prediction the claim that oils, magnets, rocks, botulism and simple massage restores and reinvigorates is the cornerstone belief of our multi-billion dollar "beauty and personal healthcare" industries.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

He forgot the best part about 2001 -- abortions for some, miniature American flags for others.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered Commenteralec

"I guess that's why I'm so amazed that people still receive electro-shock therapy. It seems so primitive and naive."

Electroconvulsive therapy does work for certain mental illnesses. It does seem archaic; however it is very effective for depression. A family member of mine needed ECT and it helped him a lot.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterWill

And so, as the comments show, on the subject of electroconvulsive therapy, you're the one that's naive.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Very cool...I especially liked the prediction:

"In 2001 a small criminal cabal within the state intelligence/governmental apparatus of the United States will use a dramatic clandestine state-sponsored terrorist act to create a faux terror war; and then through the fear created impose a draconian economic regime designed to loot the public wealth and infrastructure; and put into place a police state structure to protect the power they obtained through this contrive terror war."

Boy, this kid was some kinda genius!

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterthe_big_wedding

He was definitely on the right track. The signs I see today are "Old people restored to youth with computerized lasers". But guess what computers and lasers run on? Electricity!

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

There is not one test to prove anyone has mental illness(blood, urine, brain scan). Then you people say ECT is humane, now that people don't thrash around. Are you stupid? What do you think electricity does to peoples brains? It fixes chemical imbalances( there is no test for any chemical imbalance). ECT DAMAGES PEOPLES BRAINS,THIS IS HOW IT WORKS.

Then people FORGET if the ECT is voluntary or involuntary, is the "patient" informed before of the BRAIN DAMAGE that will occur?

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMark

This is a hoax. Besides, anyone who claims to see the future is like anyone who claims to have seen angels or spoken to god...schizophrenic.

Still, it makes you wonder about what life will be like in as many years from our own present.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

They had a lot of electric-shock quack devices at the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices in Minneapolis, that's now at the St. Paul Science Center.

the website:

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

Electric shock therapy is used today to restore youth - it's called cardioversion and has a very good success rate in eliminating cardiac arrythmias (sp?).

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Thanks Mark. For some people, brain damage is preferable to suicide when nothing else has helped.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

quoting anon: "This is a hoax. Besides, anyone who claims to see the future is like anyone who claims to have seen angels or spoken to god...schizophrenic."

How is this a hoax? it is a historical piece of writing and makes no mention of "seeing" the future, but merely predicting it based on whatever.

To claim that you see this as a hoax makes you a schizophrenic

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Love your blog, but on ECT I have to disagree. In the days of "one flew over the cuckoo's nest" it got a bad rep- part of the problem is it LOOKS bad, the patient going into spasm etc. but these days the pulse is tiny and the patient is anesthetized.
Chronic mental illness is a serious and potentially deadly problem. Anything that will alleviate the pain and suffering is worth keeping on the table.
There have been many, many studies on the effects of ECT, and, contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence that it causes brain damage.
Besides all this, the bottom line is that for many people, it works. It's got a proven track record of alleviating a range of problems from chronic depression to psychosis.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDave

just to repeat: ECT does not cause brain damage.
Check the medical literature on the subject if you don't believe me.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDave

From the Amazon site"(admission of Nicaragua and Mexico to the Union)" Wow. not far off the mark there as far as Mexico goes.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterValerie


April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

Sorry, I digg down ignorance.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJade

The kid was right. He did not write that in the future old people would actually be restored to youth by electricity, on the spot. He (as related here at least) wrote that there would be a sign claiming that. Today, I see many such signs...

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Wow. That kid was surprisingly correct. While we don't have airlines as he imagined, we do have sky scrapers in the triple digits. The predictions have come about in a different form though.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterPaulGuise

Cool Site - we're gonna link you! kes me want to re-read a lot of Jules Verne.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKushCash

I think it's sad that part of what he envisaged is true, and how one expects life in the future to be so grandiose. Does life in the future necessarily have to be so much greater than it is today? I would do anything to go back to the 1900s, however inconvenient that may be.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKines

Maybe he could come back and tell us about the year 3001.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

What exactly in this is so prophetic?

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

ECT kills, that's the bottom line. it is a barbaric treatment and destroys life. All of those who advocate it have obviously never seen the effects it has on people, that is if they don't die shortly after it. It was discovered when a pig got electrocuted right before going into the slaughter house... reports say the pig wasn't as resistive to being killed and from that account psychiatrists began to apply to patients. How's that for scientific research? No matter what the excuse behind it is, it kills.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterWarren

Actually, the most interesting thing about the article is that there are no misspellings and he made it through without using the words, fuck yeah! Those were the days.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Don't believe everything you read on wikipedia.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

...and we all know that Arthur went on to invent the PalmPilot.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

The author came out of left field with the blurb on electroshock, I'm guessing he has first hand experience. Other than that this article was pretty skimpy on details and useless.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

ECT doesn't always work. I got it and it didn't help for shit.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous


Well, my dad had ETC about three years ago for severe depression. Last I checked (about 20 minutes ago) not only is he alive, but he's doing much better thanks to his therapy. While ETC should never, under any circumstances, be administered as the default treatment, I echo what others have said here in saying that it has its benefits for those who really need help. Yes, my dad suffered some short-term memory loss while undergoing ETC, but his memory has made a full recovery.

So, do your research before you start spouting opinions guised as fact.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous


"ECT kills, that's the bottom line. it is a barbaric treatment and destroys life. All of those who advocate it have obviously never seen the effects it has on people, that is if they don't die shortly after it."

So sayeth Xenu!

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Yet another payola digg article... BUY MY BOOK PLZ


April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

haha. very interesting. the article is too short though.

Hail Xenu!

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered Commenteragloco

Electroconvulsive therapy is still the ONLY cure for depression. Only Cure...there is no other. So it isn't so naive.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBill

As a medical professional who just completed a rotation in psychiatry, I can tell you that ECT is considered both safe and very effective (more so than anti-depressants such as SSRI's). It is associated with short-term memory loss surrounding the treatments that usually resolves quickly but can take up to 6 months.

As for when it is used, it's generally reserved for cases of depression refractory to medication/psychotherapy. It is, however, first line in patients who are depressed w/ psychotic features (a subtype of depression that is not the same thing as schizophrenia or any other psychotic disorder).

Also, it is done quite humanely now, under general anesthesia with complete muscular block (paralysis) and a seizure is induced but there is no shaking as you would see with a normal seizures (due to the paralysis). Patients begin to see improvement after the 1st treatment (generally), but many patients will undergo 10+ treatments over the course of days/weeks.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterfacted

"...even Edison would feel jealous of the great inventions in the year 2001."

Please, give me a break. Edison was jealous of the inventions being achieved in the 1890s. After Nikola Tesla's brilliant invention of polyphase alternating current, Edison set out to discredit it to promote his inferior direct current. As Tesla achieved success after success, Edison and his millionaire cronies set out to do the only thing they could - sling mud on his name and rewrite history.

Incidentally, many of Tesla's predictions of the future were right on!

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDesert Tripper" REL="nofollow">As seen on the PsychWatch Weblog, recent research has proven that Electroconvulsive Therapy causes permanent amnesia And cognitive deficits, according to a prominent researcher.

For the past 25 years, ECT patients were told by Sackeim, the nation's top ECT researcher, that the controversial treatment doesn't cause permanent amnesia and, in fact, improves memory and increases intelligence. Psychologist Sackeim also taught a generation of ECT practitioners that permanent amnesia from ECT is so rare that it could not be studied. He asserted that most people who said the treatment erased years of memory were mentally ill and thus not credible.

Unfortunately, he has discovered that he made a grave error, damaging hundreds of thousand if not millions of people

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSickmind Fraud

Electro shock therapy is harmless. It has done me a lot of good. I think if everyone had doooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnne itttttt itttt woullld be betttttttttteer forrr socciieeeettyy zzzzzzzzzz

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNathan

I guess this kid coined the phrase "sky-scraper".

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

The reference to using electricity for medical uses was probably not refering to electro convulsive shock but was most likly derived at from the work of a man named Royal Rife. He used electricity and resonant frequencies to successfully treat many diseases that are today still not curable. His methods were acclaimed to be a great discovery. He was born in the late 1800's.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous


April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Electroshock Therapy is still used today, along with chemical treatments for depression. Electroshock Therapy helps increase the effectiveness of some chemical treatments. There is no pain involved; the muscle spasms are involuntary. The way it works is that it erases the short-term memory, thus making the person forget about their present worries, and they respond better to chemical treatment as a result.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterA Non-Mouse

Electricity is used for youth. It fuels the lights in the surgery room. It powers the life support systems that measure heartbeat and blood pressure. It give s the little suction vaccum that extra pull so the fat can be sucked out of the stomach for a tummy tuck.

Electrity makes the old young again. The kid was far from wrong.

April 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterValarius

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