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Entries in library of congress (10)


Tesla Predicts the Portable TV (1926)

In 1926 Nicola Tesla gave an interview to Collier's Weekly in which he predicted something that sounds remarkably like portable television. Perhaps most interestingly, he mentions that this technology would be used to watch war unfold, "just as though we were present."

NEW YORK, Jan 25 - (AP) - Application of radio principles will enable people by carrying a small instrument in their pockets to see distant events like the sorceress of the magic crystal fairy tales and legends, Nikola Tesla, electrical inventor, predicted today. Mr. Tesla, who on several occasion has tried to communicate with the planet Mars, made his predictions in an interview published in the current issue of Collier's Weekly.

"We shall be able to witness the inauguration of a president, the playing of a world's series baseball game, the havoc of an earthquake, or a battle just as though we were present," Mr. Tesla said.

I'm fascinated by the rise of the moving image during the first half of the 20th century. In the 1920's Thomas Edison was predicting that movies would replace textbooks, D.W. Griffith predicted that motion pictures would overtake the printed word, and Cecille B. Demille said that as the cost of camera equipment came down home movies would soon be produced by average Americans.

Every generation believes that they live in a special age of technological progress, but it is quite humbling to read about the rise of electricity, motion pictures, radio or television and trying to imagine what it must have been like to experience those things for the first time. Without belittling the accomplishments and enormous potential of the internet, I dare say those things were more jaw-dropping than the first time I popped in an AOL CD-ROM.


Article source: January 26, 1926 Nevada State Journal

Photo of Nicola Tesla: Library of Congress


Previously on Paleofuture: 



U.S. Senate Monorail (1912)

1912 Senate Monorail (Library of Congress)

From 1912-61 tunnels below the U.S. Senate building were filled with monorail cars carrying senators on the "shortest and most exclusive railway in the world.” A short history about the monorail system appears on the website and is excerpted below.

I'm fascinated with early ideas of what "the monorail" was to become and even more fascinated with the transportation systems that (as in this case) were actually tried. These black and white photographs can be found at the Library of Congress in high-resolution formats. The color image below comes from

1912 Construction of the Monorail (Library of Congress)

The U.S. Senate website goes into detail about the monorail system:

The distance between the old Senate Office Building and the Capitol was only a fifth of a mile, but senators needed to traverse it multiple times on a typical legislative day. Had the Capitol been a skyscraper, elevators would have whisked members from their offices on different floors to the chamber. Instead, the office building and Capitol were linked by a horizontal elevator: a subway. Initially, transportation in the subway tunnel was provided by battery-powered yellow Studebaker coaches. Ten passengers could ride in each car, facing each other on benches. The buses ran along a concrete roadway at a maximum speed of 12 miles an hour. Rather than turn around at each terminus, they backed up for the return trip. Running backwards made them more difficult to steer, raising fears that someday the two cars might collide in the curved tunnel. In 1912 the Senate authorized installation of a double-line electric monorail system that ran on fixed tracks. Built by the Columbia Construction Company, the trains held up to 18 passengers each, in rows of wicker seats. Senators received priority in boarding the cars, and the front seats were reserved for them at all times. One operator commented that he never waited for other passengers when there was a senator aboard, “unless it’s the Vice President.” Senators summoned the trains by ringing a bell three times (the same signal also alerted elevator operators). During Senate votes, the trains would shuttle back and forth furiously, a one-way trip taking 45 seconds. Each car made an average of 225 trips per day when the Senate was in session. The press dubbed this Senate subway the “shortest and most exclusive railway in the world.”

After the subway was extended to the new office building, a new tunnel and rail system was constructed for the original office building. The first subway tunnel was converted into storage space, offices and facilities for the Senate Recording Studio. The old cars made their last run in 1961, and were captured on film by the Hollywood movie Advise and Consent, shot during the trains’ final weeks in service. The new cars featured upholstered seats and a plastic shield to protect passengers’ hair from becoming windblown. Not everyone appreciated the improved services. Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright lamented the closing of the old line, which he described as “soothing to jangled nerves.” Senator Fulbright argued that the quaint old cars had put senators “in a friendly and amiable frame of mind as they arrive to do battle over the nation’s business.”

Image of a monorail car from

1912 Senate Monorail (Library of Congress)

Previously on Paleo-Future:


French Flying Machines (1890-1900)

These French cards, archived at the Library of Congress, were produced sometime between 1890 and 1900. Most of the cards illustrate important feats from ballooning history between 1795-1846, while card number two (pictured above) depicts futuristic visions of flight from the 1800s. It's striking how similar these imagined flying machines are to those we looked at from 1885.

The Paleo-Future Store features button sets of those paleo-futuristic flying machines from 1885, which you can check out here.

Les utopies de la navigation aérienne au siècle dernier

Read more:
Flying Machines (circa 1885)
French Prints Show the Year 2000 (1910)
Boy's Flying Machine of the 20th Century (1900)
Futuristic Air Travel (circa 1900)
Going to the Opera in the Year 2000 (1882)
Postcards Show the Year 2000 (circa 1900)



William H. Boyes Monorail (1911)

This image of the William H. Boyes monorail is from 1911 and can be found in the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog. The Monorail Society has a description of the monorail which appears below.

This test track was built and demonstrated in 1911 in the tideflats of Seattle, Washington. The rails were made of wood and track cost was estimated to be around $3,000 per mile. A bargain! The Seattle Times commented at the time that "the time may come when these wooden monorail lines, like high fences, will go straggling across country, carrying their burden of cars that will develop a speed of about 20 miles per hour." Like so many inventions, lack of financial backing prevented further development.

See also:
X-20 Monorail Toy (1962)
Frederick & Nelson Ad (1962)
Closer Than We Think! Monoline Express (1961)
Amphibian Monorail (Popular Science, 1934)
Monorails at Disneyland (1959 and 1960)
Like Earth, Only in Space . . . and with monorails (1989)
600 Miles An Hour (1901)



Much-Needed Rest (1903)

A common fear of the future is that life will become much too hectic. This idea is commonly portrayed in cartoons such as the one above, which ran in the June 4, 1903 edition of Life Magazine. The caption reads, "Mr. A. Merger Hogg is taking a few days' much-needed rest at his country home."

This image by Charles Dana Gibson was found in the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog via the book Turn-of-the-century America: Paintings, graphics, photographs, 1890-1910

See also:
Future Plane Travel (1920)


Gardens of Glowing Electrical Flowers (1900)

From October 11 until December 27, 1900 the New York Observer ran a series of eight letters by a man named Augustus. He was reporting from the Paris Exposition of 1900. The second installment of the series, which ran October 18th captures the wonder of seeing a city engulfed in electric light and the hope for harnessing that revolutionary power in the future.

When the five thousand lamps on the Chateau d’Eau are lighted, and the thousands of other incandescent lights placed in the aisles and corridors, flame out, and when on a gala night, hundreds of trees are covered with electrical fruits, and the gardens filled with glowing electrical flowers, while every outline and arch and symbol on the towers and domes and minarets, from the lofty Eiffel tower to the kiosks on the lakes and the grottoes and caves of the aquarium, glows with the electric fire, one realizes as never before, how great a mastery man has acquired over this strange and powerful agent, and wonders what marvels and glories are reserved for us, by its means in the future.

To borrow a phrase from writers that would come much later, Augustus uses commas like other men use periods. Passages like the one above help those like me truly appreciate what it means to be in awe of technology.

We often throw around words like "revolution" when describing new technologies such as the iPhone or the Internet in general, and there is no doubt that they have and will make a profound impact on society, but it is important to place them in the context of what life was like before the world saw artificial, electrical light on such a grand scale.

The photo of 1900 Paris at Night is from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection.

See also:
Moving Sidewalk (1900)
Moving Sidewalk Mechanics (1900)


New London in the Future (1909)

This 1909 illustration of New London in the future can be found in the Library of Congress collection.