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Entries in yesterday's tomorrows (5)


The Trench Destroyer (1917)

This chilling image from the height of World War I appeared on the February, 1917 cover of Hugo Gernsback's The Electrical Experimenter. The excerpt below is from Yesterday's Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future by Joseph Corn and Brian Horrigan.

The design of this mobile dreadnaught, with its steel-tired, spoked wheels, suggests that its inventor may have been influenced by agricultural tractors or perhaps an amusement park Ferris wheel. The trench destroyer also embodies the common goal of military visionaries: maximum offensive power with total defensive security.

 Previously on Paleo-Future:



Are We Heading Toward the Day Everything Stops? (1968)

My friend Brian Horrigan, co-author of the retro-futurism bible Yesterday's Tomorrows, writes a blog for the Minnesota Historical Society called Covering 1968. Brian recently blogged about the cover of the December 14, 1968 Saturday Evening Post. Its headline, "Are We Heading Toward the Day Everything Stops?" is an odd juxtaposition against the colorful (though certainly crowded) world depicted by illustrator Gene Holtan.

As Brian notes, the illustration style pays homage to popular futuristic images of the late 19th and early 20th century, like this one from an 1895 issue of Judge magazine. An excerpt from Brian's post appears below.

The editors of the Saturday Evening Post suggest here that 1968 was similarly full of warning bells–and this time the “future shock” had to do with massive infrastructural gridlock.  ”We are going very fast just to stay where we are,” the editors write.  The nation has a choice of where it will be in 25 years (that is, 1993):  ”Either an efficiently computerized and integrated transportation system . . . or an air-land-and-sea traffic jam so enormous that it will bring our entire society to a virtual standstill.” 

If you live in the Twin Cities and don't yet have plans for Groundhog Day (I realize this is a very busy holiday for people) come to the Turf Club in St. Paul where Brian Horrigan and myself will be talking (and drinking) at the Minnesota Historical Society event, The History of Hip: Yesterday's Tomorrows.

Previously on Paleo-Future:



Joseph Corn on Future Shock (May 17, 2008)

This past May I sat down with Joseph Corn, co-author of Yesterday's Tomorrows, to talk about past visions of the future. We chatted over coffee at Brian Horrigan's house (Brian is the other author of Yesterday's Tomorrows) about the paleo-future of transportation, robot servants and the end of the world.

Joe challenged a lot of my assumptions about how to classify different decades and the way in which various generations view the future optimistically or pessimistically. A short excerpt from our conversation appears below.

Matt Novak: Have you ever read Alvin Toffler's Future Shock?


Joseph Corn: I did. I so vividly remember reading it in a campground in the Redwoods in Northern California.

MN: What did you think of it then and what do you think of his ideas now?

JC: [long pause] They deserve re-examination now, the concept of future shock. At the time of his writing . . . I didn't really find it that persuasive. People talk as if future shock is a major syndrome that deserves Medicare treatment today, and I sort of feel that way. The pace at which software changes and technology generally, although it is still filling in . . . Filling in the cracks is not the right metaphor . . . I've had a personal computer now for 25 years and it is so different. The web, plus wireless, plus speed, plus miniaturization in the laptop form makes it something different. As we carry these things around with us when we couldn't with an IBM PC.

MN: Do you think that all this technological change that you've seen recently, is that harming us? Because that seems to be the main thesis of his . . .

JC: I don't buy that. As a historian I'm very skeptical. I think we're trained professionally to be skeptical of . . . you might put it, in terms of the Golden Age fallacy. There was a moment when things were better and everything's been done since. I just can't buy that. One could worry and yet, I don't. I just see it as different. As fascinatingly different. I just don't see civilization going to hell in a handbasket. [long pause] At least I don't want to.

See also:
Future Shock (1972)
Future Shock - Electrical Stimulation (1972)
Future Shock - Skin Color (1972)
Future Shock - Babytorium (1972)



The Air-Ship or One Hundred Years Hence (1908)

It saddens me greatly to read about films that are forever lost to deterioration. The 1984 book Yesterday's Tomorrows by Joseph J. Corn and Brian Horrigan mentions a film that was released in 1908 under the title The Air-Ship or One Hundred Years Hence. The ad below advertised the film, giving it second billing to The Great One Hand Pianist. This ad for the Electric Theatre appeared in the May 19, 1908 La Crosse Tribune (La Crosse, Wisconsin).

Anyone with more information about this film is encouraged to fill us in. For now, let us raise our glasses to this paleo-future wonder, currently playing at The Great Showhouse in the Sky.


Sport in Space Colonies (1977)

This 1977 illustration by Rick Guidice is from the book Yesterday's Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future.

"Scientists have long known that exercise will be especially important for denizens of space colonies, since there is no gravity to give the body a natural workout. One wonders, however, whether this image of suburban jogging and tennis may prove to be more nostalgic than accurate."

Rick Guidice also did the illustrations featured in this post from February.

See also:
Space Colonies by Don Davis
More Space Colony Art (1970s)
Mars and Beyond (1957)
Future Cities: Homes and Living into the 21st Century (1979)