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Entries in flying machines (10)


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!

Previously on Paleo-Future:



Dr. Smith's Flying Machine (1896)

The September 1, 1896 San Francisco Call (San Francisco, CA) ran this image of inventor Dr. C. A. Smith's flying machine. Apparently Smith had a model of his airship propped up on two stools in a shop on Market Street in San Francisco. The functional version of the machine was to be 105 feet in length and have a capacity of nearly 90,000 cubic feet of hydrogen.

It looks just like the business end of a rocket. It has a conical point, a round body and at the rear end a brass fan whirrs lustily every time a live wire is hitched on to the electric motor in the interior of the concern. Two wings, like those of a beetle, rise and fall from the top of the cylinder, and a few small windows and three rudders make up the latest of flying machines. [continue reading here]


Previously on Paleo-Future:



Strange Ships That Sail In The Skies (1897)

The May 9, 1897 St. Paul Globe (St. Paul, MN) ran an interesting article titled, "Strange Ships That Sail In The Skies." The article describes proposed flying vessels of the future, as well as newspapers around the United States that had were printing questionable accounts of flying machines already in use. Many of the illustrations from the article are similar to the flying machines we looked at from 1885.

I had no idea that so many newspapers reported -- with questionable intentions -- flying vessels throughout the country. If that's true, I imagine someone has written a book on this late-19th century phenomenon, no?

Mechanical Birds: Dreams of Flight in 19th Century Journalism. See? I already came up with a title for you. Go write the book. Yes, I'm looking at you. Just write it. I promise to buy a copy. But if you really want your non-fiction book to sell, make sure to put "...The Blankity Blank That Changed America Forever" in your subtitle. You'll thank me later. When you're rolling around in piles of money. Cuz that's a million dollar idea.

You can read, "Strange Ships That Sail In The Skies," in its entirety on Scribd.

This is the age of the airship. The evolution of the balloon to the flying machine is nearly complete, and it is not improbably that within a few years great aerial vessels for passenger service and monster engines of war and commerce will be seen sailing through space.

Recently the newspapers of the whole country have been exploiting stories of airships seen hovering over various towns and country places in districts very far apart. The testimony seems impeachable, especially in the face of so many witnesses, but certain details are always lacking to complete the evidence. Now it is a story of a wonderful vessel seen on the Pacific coast in the neighborhood of San Francisco or maybe Sacramento. Next a report comes of one having been seen in Nebraska, or a farmer in some Iowa county reports seeing a bright light and moving object in the air on a dark night. Then the scene shifts, and a man or a score of men report seeing a wonderful what is it from some other remote quarter of the United States.



Previously on Paleo-Future:



Flying Machines Allow Your Lover a Quick Escape (1901)


It doesn't get much better than saucy French futurism, does it? These illustrations of futuristic flying machines from 1901 are quite similar to both the German and French personal flying machines we've looked at from this era.

I find the electric lights adorning her hat and dress quite beautiful. Early electric light and the way it was described in such poetic terms at the turn of the twentieth century truly leaves me in awe. Strangely enough, I caught myself asking, "but where is the power source for those lights?!?!!" all the while ignoring how absurd a system of dangerously placed propellors and wings would be for human flight. 

If my universal language translator can be trusted (actually, I used Babelfish), "au siecle prochain," means "in the next century," and "comment on suivra les femmes," translates to, "how women will be followed." The illustration below appears to be of a lover making his hasty escape out the window, as madame's husband arrives home. 

Below are images from previous blog posts on German postcards (circa 1900) and French prints (1910). A special thanks to Scott Lesch for the black and white images above.


Previously on Paleo-Future:



Aerial War of the Not-Distant Future (1900)

This illustration of an "aerial battle of the not-distant future" appeared in the November 20, 1900 Duluth Evening Herald (Duluth, MN). As with most of my posts involving newspapers from Minnesota, this image was found in the microfilm library of the Minnesota History Center. A special thank you to the MNHS for keeping their facilities top-notch.

NOW THE THRILLING AERIAL COMBAT. American inventors stimulated by success of the Zeppelin balloon. Airships fighting craft of the future.

Count Zeppelin, the great German balloon-builder, is responsible for a wave of aeronautic enthusiams spreading rapidly over the United States. Our artist has drawn a stirring picture of an aerial battle of the not-distant future.

Previously on Paleo-Future:


London to New York in 2 Days! (1919)

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."


September 21, 1919 Nevada State Journal

Previously on Paleo-Future:


The Future of the Helicopter (1955)

Flying Platform - 1955

The April 30, 1955 issue of Pacific Stars and Stripes (Tokyo, Japan) ran this short piece about the future of the helicopter. While it's certainly up for debate, I think the "hoppi-copter" pictured in the article below may be the most dangerous flying machine this side of a flying Ford Pinto

The many different shapes and sizes helicopter-like flying machines have assumed in recent years were designed mainly for military use but the future promises civilian occupations for almost all of them.

The Navy's new "flying platform" is a recent example. The machine consists of a wingless circular platform. It contains two fans rotating in opposite directions and producing an air blast that lifts and propels the platform.

Inexpensive and so simple to operate it could serve as an assault boat for the individual solider, it also may be the businessman's speedy coupe of the future.

Another unusual whirlybird is the "portable helicopter," a four-bladed rotor and engine weighing 60 pounds. To fly, the operator simply straps the contraption on his back, starts the motor and takes off.

In war the infantryman might use it for airborne assaults. In peacetime the Dodger fan could take in a double header without having to fight stadium crowds on the way to the game.

Previously on Paleo-Future: