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Sunday
May022010

Jean-Marc Côté's Visions of the Year 2000 (1899)

Back in 2007, when the Paleo-Future blog was just two photos of Jane Jetson and a link to my Friendster profile, I posted some images from the National Library of France that depicted life in the year 2000.

I've since learned that these prints are from 1899, rather than 1910 as reported by the BnF. I've also learned that they were illustrated by Jean-Marc Côté, a French commercial artist who was commissioned by either a toy or cigarette manufacturer, to produce them. Interestingly enough the company that commissioned the cards went out of business before they could be distributed, leaving behind just one complete set of 50 cards. And where did I learn all of this wonderful information? From reading a book! Which I hear is FUNdamental!

Isaac Asimov's Futuredays is a card-by-card analysis of these retro-futuristic artifacts and does a wonderful job of putting them into historical context for modern readers. I highly recommend it, even though the book contradicts itself by sometimes stating that the cards were commissioned by a cigarette manufacturer and sometimes claiming it was a toy company. Enjoy!

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Reader Comments (19)

Some of these work in context, some of them don't.

1: Why are they robbing an eagle's nest? and I suppose those are some strange personal-flight ornithopters that everyone was dreaming about when they didn't know a thing about real flight. Much like more modern society and Flying Cars.

2: It's basically mass incubation of chicken eggs, which really, we do this now, it just doesn't quite work that way. I wonder if the contraption here automatically detects and disposes of male chicks as well!

3: We're Baking with SCIENCE! Alton Brown would be proud.

4: This is basically motion pictures+soundtrack, except with actors instead of the projection, but it's before anyone had any idea what those were. In all, a decent prediction.

5: wait, what? I take this back, these people were on something. More improbable personal flight. At least it's almost reasonable with self-contained cartridge ammunition being in wide use by then. But it's hard enough shooting a moving bird when you're standing still. Adding in your own motion makes it doubly difficult, never mind trying to aim and fly at the same time.

May 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSian

Sooo, which came first, the chicken or the eggs?

May 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFarley

@Sian

Your comment to number 4 troubles me. As far as I was aware, modern movie soundtracks are still commonly recordings of PEOPLE playing instruments with their HANDS and MOUTHS not this machine contraption. Also, they HAD motion pictures even in the 1870's, so by 1899 they weren't at all unheard of.

May 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTwirlMyMustache

these pictures are very bucolics, and is a prove that future are unexpected

May 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBruno César

@Sian: #1: I think this must be an allusion to the pastime of collecting small birds' nests, which was apparently a common childhood activity at the time. Another case of the culture changing in unexpected ways: They really thought nature was inexhaustible back then. In the 1950s, when C. S. Lewis was writing his childen's books, his editor had to tell him that kids didn't do that any more.

May 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRodger

To put the 4th card in another context: the late nineteenth century saw many successful experiments in the mechanical production of music. The player piano was one example, but so were instruments called "orchestrions" developed on similar principles but a grander scale. Uber-guitarist Pat Metheny has recently developed a modern version of an orchestrion and discusses his nineteenth and early-twentieth century inspirations in a video on his website .

May 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElon

1 - Hang gliding, check
2 - Industrial farming techniques, check
3 - Hi-tech gadgets in the kitchen, check
4 - Synthesized music, check
5 - Hunting from air, check

May 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbuzz

Well, the fundamental elements aren't too bad. But I think they got a few things slightly askew!

May 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDave

Its a great ..They really thought nature was inexhaustible back then. In the 1950s, when C. S. Lewis was writing his childen's books, his editor had to tell him that kids didn't do that any more.

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterget a deeper voice

Is it possible that cigarette manufacturers also used to make toys? I know sometimes lighter companies made toys from the flinting device.

Maybe cigarettes used to come with toys? Buy some smokes, give the visions of the future trading cards to little Jimmy?

Thanks for making us wonder, Isaac Asimov. Geez.

May 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteramy

5: They predicted Sarah Palin!

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterColossus

To be fair to Asimov (and I'm not familiar with this set of cards) they were probably sold with/as 'penny toys' for the small boys of 1899, and included in cigarette packets as premiums for the dads. Fascinating post.

May 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHugh

Great stuff - I just ordered this so-called "book" you mention, and eagerly anticipate "reading" it.

June 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJS

You have no future predictions from NOW (2010). What about the waterless washing machine, at

http://www.inhabitat.com/2009/07/01/virtually-waterless-washing-machine-cuts-water-use-by-90/

July 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterwallen

Hahaha, the DJ.

August 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFoster

jajajaja what a ridiculous vision has our ancestor about the future, I mean men with wings, a machine that produce chickens, or the wings for hunt ducks in the air, oh come on! you can't think that all those piece of garbage reallt work, the only invent that really work is Kamagra Gel, from all the ancient ideas is the only that really work.

March 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAsh Williams

Oh, and I just noticed... despite everything being electronically controlled, there are always people to work the machine. I wonder when the idea of automated machines not requiring humans arose?

April 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFree FX Courses

Hey, Great post **
ゼチーア

May 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterゼチーア

is funny you know, look how the people of the past look the famous 2000 year, and watch us we are here in 2011 and all those fantasies are not more than just than pictures in a book, the only thing that is real now is xlpharmacy.

November 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Heller

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