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Tuesday
Aug262008

Super-Highway of Tomorrow (1939)


While not spectacular to someone from 2008, this illustration of the "super-highway of tomorrow" was quite extraordinary to people attending the 1939 New York World's Fair. A concept drawing for the original Futurama, this image was found in the Official Guide Book to the 1939 World's Fair.

Read more:
Official Guide Book: 1939 World's Fair (1939)
Dawn of a New Day (1939)
Railroads on Parade (1939)
Memory of 'Tomorrow' (New York Times, 1941)

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Reader Comments (9)

What's truly extraordinary is the lack of congestion on that freeway!

It's interesting that they had the concept right but didn't think about the consequences or economics. That huge highway with TEN cars on it.

August 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKen Schafer

"That huge highway with TEN cars on it..."
Exactly. Artist's conceptions were often closer to depicting a certain American ideal: pretty much "having this superhighway all to myself." (Lots of folks still drive that way.) There's also the big factory smoking peacefully away on a seemingly unaffected landscape (a motif right out of ninteenth-century paintings depicting Progress). I don't know whether the Autobahn had been completed before this concept art came out, but the best U.S. highways of the period were four-lane (two in each direction). Apparently the German highway so impressed General Eisenhower in 1945 that it served as the ancestor of the Interstate system.

August 27, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermin0taur

Scarily accurate unfortunately ...

August 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Jones

Great blog! I wondered how influential you think the HG Wells/Alexander Korda movie 'Things to Come' might have been on this kind of thinking? It's full of vast cities, mighty machines and - yes - rather large open areas where a vast population never seems to be too crowded (except when technophobic rioting breaks out).
At the risk of seeming forward, my HG Wells Blog is at:

http://myhgwellsblog.blogspot.com/

August 29, 2008 | Unregistered Commentervaldemar squelch

"... influential you think the HG Wells/Alexander Korda movie 'Things to Come' might have been on this kind of thinking..."

Certainly it was an expression of the spirit of the times; modernity was (at least in part) supposed to a route out of the Depression. In addition, by the time of the movie's release in 1936, the pulp magazines that came after Gernsback's "Electrical Experimenter" ("Amazing Stories," "Popular Mechanics," and such) had been busy establishing an iconography of pop futurism (while republishing many stories by Wells and Verne) for 10 years.

August 30, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermin0taur

Here it the GM Futurama video that made these projections:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74cO9X4NMb4&feature=related

August 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

It makes one want to scream, "Nooooo! Don't do it!!!".

September 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Inspired by the German Autobahns ofcourse which were around from the early 30's.

October 22, 2008 | Unregistered Commentertuub

ONly 10 lanes? Lightweights!

July 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAliasUndercover

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