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Entries in transportation (122)


Flying Family Car (1958)

The November 30, 1958 edition of This Week magazine ran this illustration of the flying family car. The image accompanied a larger piece about Army vehicles of the future. Best thing about the article? It promised that this flying car could be a reality within two years.

Previously on Paleo-Future:



Motor Car of the Future (1918)

The March 10, 1918 Oakland Tribune (Oakland, CA) ran this illustration of the motor car of the future. If so inclined, one can read the entire article here. But let's face it, you're just here for the pretty pictures.

The new car will be all glass-enclosed and controlled entirely by a set of push buttons. It will have no clutch, gears or transmission, will sit low, have small clearance and punctureless tires.

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Victor Cohn (1919-2000)

The prophets of misery and robotism too often focus their sights on the cocktail party instead of the school. They describe the life of past generations in nostalgic terms, but do not really compare the lives of average housewives or factory workers today with the lives of their grandparents and with the drudgery, ignorance and poverty that characterized and blackened the past. -- Victor Cohn, 1956

Victor Cohn (undated photo)Victor Cohn was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on August 14, 1919. He was raised in a lower-middle-class home, the son of Louis Cohn, a traveling salesman born in Chicago and Lillian Cohn, a housewife born in Minneapolis.

Cohn began his career as a journalist at the University of Minnesota's student newspaper, The Daily, where he served as editor from 1940-41. He developed a passion for writing impactful stories that connected emotionally, as well as technically (as he largely wrote about science and health) with readers.

Victor Cohn was an optimist. The kind of optimist who dared say the future had potential, that there was a chance everything could turn out alright. It is an attitude I admire, largely because it's an attitude I so rarely share. The problems facing the world today feel insurmountable in many ways.

According to his son, Jeffrey Cohn, his father's analysis of news about advances in medical science was tremendously insightful. Victor Cohn said that every story fit into one of two categories -- new hope or no hope.

In 1954 Cohn wrote a series of twelve syndicated articles for the Minneapolis Tribune titled 1999: Our Hopeful FutureThe series was expanded into a book in 1956 and follows the Future (with a capital "F") family; John Future, his wife Emily Future, and their children, Timothy, Peter, Susan and Billy Future. The Future family goes about their futuristic business in a world free of the technological obstacles which faced mankind in the primitive 1950s.

Pre-Jetsons and pre-Star Trek, the book serves as a kind of beautiful time capsule in which we imagine a distant and alien world. Disposable clothes, solar and nuclear-powered everything, TV-phones, lightning-fast transportation; the future was looking pretty sweet.

But Cohn was not an unreasonable man. His technologically optimistic book was a vision of hope for a better world, whatever form that took. While studying yesterday's visions of tomorrow it's easy to forget that people of the 20th century were not all wide-eyed rubes who believed the future was pre-destined to be shiny, happy and plastic. 

Such prophets who fail to balance good against bad too often would have us merely shrink from the tools that new decades always bring, and thereby acknowledge defeat in what is admittedly going to be a difficult struggle. A difficult struggle is man's typical state. Reject change, and we will be enslaved by it; others will accept the worst of it and dictate to us. Accept change, and we may control it. We need the voices of our more balanced critics if we are to remember to look inside ourselves, not just crow about our surface achievements. But we need the voices of optimists too if we are to see a vision ahead, if we are to see what we can accomplish. -- Victor Cohn, 1956

Thank you Victor Cohn, for reminding us that we must always be looking forward if we are to build a world where the "prophets of misery" are to be proved wrong.

Previously on Paleo-Future:



Highway to Russia (1959)

The March 3, 1959 edition of Arthur Radebaugh's Closer Than We Think depicts a highway to Russia, as imagined by Senator Warren G. Magnuson. According to Wikipedia, (the only source for anything that my generation might care about) this was not a new idea. Joseph Strauss, designer of the Golden Gate Bridge, proposed something similar for railroads in the 1890s.

Sen. Magnuson of Washington has a bold new idea for linking our newest state, Alaska, with Siberia via a bridge or vehicular tunnel across the 30- to 40-mile stretch of shallow waters of the Bering Strait. It would go from Wales, on the tip of Seward Peninsula, to Little Diomede and Big Diomede Islands, thence to Peyak, Siberia.

The Senator forecasts this hook-up within the lifetime of the present generation, to create a rail and highway route between points as distant as New York and Paris. "I am convinced," he says, "that the tourists who one day will drive this route will be our best ambassadors!"

Next week: Plastic Schoolhouses

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International Travel of the Future (1932)

This illustration of international travel in the future, complete with robotic red-cap porters, appeared in the December 4, 1932 San Antonio Light (San Antonio, TX). It seems that all you need to do is step into the tube of your choice, then be shot out via capsule to your final destination.

The design has a very Rube Goldberg feel to it. Why one must first go down a slide, before ascending stairs couldn't be confirmed by presstime. The caption that accompanied the illustration is below.

INSTANTANEOUS INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL -- The artist here suggests the passenger terminals of the future, which, he thinks, will look quite different from the present steamship pier or railroad station. It will be noticed that everybody is equipped with a little personal radio antenna, and the arrivals and departures are announced by a mechanical man, while the red-cap porter is replaced by a robot who handles the luggage.

Previously on Paleo-Future:



Solar Cars, Electric Guitars and Bionic Arms (1977)

The Journal News of Hamilton, OH devoted much of its February 27, 1977 edition to "Our Third 100 Years." Harding Junior High student James Schmidt wrote a piece for the newspaper, imagining what life might look like in the 21st century. James describes 13-year-old kids driving solar-powered cars, futuristic electric guitars and his father's bionic arm. Sounds about right.

1977 Feb 27 Journal News - Hamilton OH Paleo-future

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Dirigible Plane of the Future (1930)

From the May 12, 1930 Galveston Daily News (Galveston, TX):

LOS ANGELES -- Claude H. Freese with his latest imaginative model of a future airliner. A combination of heavier and lighter than-air features the finished ship, measuring 902 feet in length.

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