In December 1900, The Ladies’ Home Journal published a fascinating article by Elfreth Watkins on “What May Happen in the Next 100 Years” (PDF of original article here). Elfreth opens with the words “These prophecies will seem strange, almost impossible. Yet they will have come from the most learned and conservative minds in America.”
Here are some of the 29 prophesies that ensued:
- There will be No C, X or Q in our every-day alphabet. They will be abandoned because unnecessary. Spelling by sound will have been adopted.
- There will be no street cars within our large cities. All hurry traffic will be below or high above the ground.
- Photographs will be telegraphed from any distance. If there is a battle in China in a hundred years hence, snapshots of its most striking events will be published in the newspapers an hour later.
- There will be airships, but they will not successful compete with surface cars and water vessels but they will be maintained as deadly war vessels by all military nations.
- There will be no wild animals except in menageries. Rats and mice will have been exterminated. The horse will have become practically extinct.
- Man will see around the world. Persons and things of all kinds will be brought within focus of cameras connected electrically with screens at opposite ends of circuits, thousands of miles at a span. American audiences in their theatres will view upon huge curtains before them the coronations of kings in Europe or the progress of battles in the Orient. The instrument bringing these distant scenes to the very doors of people will be connected with a giant telephone apparatus transmitting each incidental sound in its appropriate place. Thus the guns of a distant battle will be heard to boom when seen to blaze, and thus the lips of a remote actor or singer will be heard to utter words or music when seen to move.
- Wireless telephone and telegraph circuits will span the world. A husband in the middle of the Atlantic will be able to converse with his wife sitting in her boudoir in Chicago. We will be able to telephone to China quite as readily as we now talk from New York to Brooklyn. By an automatic signal they will connect with any circuit in their locality without the intervention of a “hello girl”.
- A university education will be free to every man and woman. Several great national universities will have been established.
- Pneumatic tubes, instead of store wagons, will deliver packages and bundles. These tubes will collect, deliver and transport mail over certain distances, perhaps for hundreds of miles. They will at first connect with the private houses of the wealthy; then with all homes. Great business establishments will extend them to stations, similar to our branch post-offices of today, whence fast automobile vehicles will distribute purchases from house to house.
Hindsight is, of course, always 20/20. But note that the lack of any reference to global wars and global institutions despite the note in passing about “air ships” being used for warfare.