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Entries in future cities (32)

Friday
Jul092010

Future New York, The City of Skyscrapers (1925)

This postcard from 1925 imagines future New York City, "The City of Skyscrapers." Utopian New York of the 1920s sure had a lot of levels, with a system of elevated trains, some beautiful flying contraptions, and towering skyscrapers reaching toward the heavens. I'm fascinated by New York futurism, as it generally had a more rugged or old world vibe (even in its utopian form) than the futurism of the shiny western United States.

Of course New York is a favorite setting for the apocalyptic as well. Just yesterday my friend Brian Horrigan, co-author of the book Yesterday's Tomorrows, told me about a decidedly apocalyptic book focusing on New York that I can't wait to get my hands on, The City's End: Two Centuries of Fantasies, Fear, and Premonitions of New York's Destruction

The postcard is from my personal collection, but the date I'm using is based upon Corbis Images.

UPDATE: Though the identical colorized image from Corbis may very well be from 1925, I've found earlier sources of this image from travel guide publisher Moses King, dating back to 1911.

FUTURE NEW YORK will be pre-eminently the city of skyscrapers. The first steel frame structure that was regarded as a skyscraper was the Tower Building at 50 Broadway, a ten story structure 129 feet high. There are now over a thousand building of that height in Manhattan. The best known skyscrapers are the Singer Building, 612 feet high, the Metropolitan Building, 700 feet high; and the Woolworth Tower which towers above them all and rises to a height of 790 feet. The proposed Pan American Building is to be 801 feet high.

 

Previously on Paleo-Future: 

 

Wednesday
Jan272010

"And This Button Annihilates the City" (1965)

We've looked at many advertisements that use the push-button future as a way to position products as cutting edge or innovative. But when the Future is used in this ad from the August 19, 1965 Marion Sentinel it just seems lazy.

Where is Father looking, and what --oh gawd, WHAT?-- will pushing those buttons do to that poor futuristic city? I think Daughter's been dipping into Mother's little helper, which would explain her crazy eyes, but doesn't explain why almost everyone is looking at a different point in space.

I guess the lesson here is that if you want to see the Future just look up and to your left. And leave your mouth slightly agape.

Oh, and shop at A & H Appliance.

 

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Monday
Oct192009

24-Hour Daylight (1960)

I'd put this retro-futuristic prediction in the "why the hell would you do that?" file.

The August 7, 1960 Chicago Tribune ran this panel of Arthur Radebaugh's Closer Than We Think, titled "24-Hour Daylight." It imagines a world in which miniature artificial suns illuminate cities of the future. To be fair, those people look like they couldn't be happier. Does sleep deprivation cause some sort of euphoric state?

Man-made balls of fire may be used to light up tomorrow's cities. American scientists are currently pondering an idea along those lines that was first described in technical papers by George Babat, a Russian.

Bendix researcher Donald Ritchie recently reported that balls of light -- actually miniature suns -- might be created by focusing huge transmitting devices so that the rays they generate would cross each other and produce electromagnetic fields. These luminous fields could be used to light up large areas underneath them. Rays would be pointed as necessary to determine exactly where the artificial "sunlight" would fall.

Next week: Missile Movers

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Saturday
Sep192009

Gernsback Imagines Life 50 Years Hence (1925)

Hugo Gernsback wrote a syndicated piece in 1925 that imagined the world of 1975. It appeared in the February 8th edition of the San Antonio Light (San Antonio, TX) and has an interesting mix of hits and misses. Highlights from the article are excerpted below. You can read the piece in its entirety here.

Gernsback recognized that the future had the potential to be even more fantastic than we could imagine:

The chances are that if someone runs across this fifty years from now, he will severely condemn the writer of this for his great lack of imagination, for, no matter how wild the predictions may seem now, they will look very tame fifty years hence. If someone had tried to explain radio to you fifty years ago, or the X-ray, or radium, he would have been put down as ripe for the insane asylum, and you may rest assured that we are no different today.

 

On television:

Movies by radio! Why not? You will be able to have a moving picture produced in some central plant and projected in your home, on your yacht, or on your camping trip, the picture being sent by radio, and received and projected upon your screen. All this is perfectly possible.

On teleportation:

By [1975], we shall be able to send all sorts of materials by radio. If you think that it is impossible to transmit a carload of coal thousands of miles, you need only go back less than fifty years, when it would have been thought equally impossible to have the street cars of Syracuse, N.Y., run by the power generated by Niagara Falls. Today no one thinks anything of this.

On personal transportation:

Each pedestrian will roll on electric skates, such as have been constructed even today. An insulated wire running from the skate to the head or shoulder of the skater will be sufficient to take the power from the radio power line, and we shall then all be propelled electrically at a pace at least four or five times as fast as we walk today.

On buildings of the future:

All of our buildings and houses are due for a great revolution. In the Wintertime all of our buildings will be warm, and in the Summertime they will be cool. The future buildings and house will be fashioned along the principle of a thermos bottle. Each wall will be double, and the space between the walls will be filled with cork or some other poor heat conductor.

On airplanes:

The tops of our tallest buildings will be flat and glass-covered. They will have airplane landing platforms on which all kinds of airplanes, or even the trans-Atlantic planes of the future will land.

On hanging gardens:

Our large office buildings, or, for that matter, private houses, will have real gardens with large trees on top of the roofs, as has already been tried experimentally with smaller plants in some of our large cities.

On electrified crops:

Not only that, but plant life will also be greatly stimulated as recent high frequency experiments on plants have shown. Our crops and plants will grow practically two to ten times as quickly and the crops will be more productive under this electrification. Under such stimulation it will be quite possible to raise crops at least twice or perhaps more often during the year; and the most interesting part about this is that it will cost the farmer absolutely nothing except for fertilizer. And this he requires anyway.

On moving sidewalks:

Below the elevated railway we have continuous moving platforms. There will be three such moving platforms alongside of each other. The first platform will move only a few miles per hour, the second at eight or ten miles per hour, and the third at twelve or fifteen miles per hour.

You step upon the slowest moving one from terra firma and move to the faster ones and take your seat. Then arriving at your station, you can either take the lift to the top platform or else you can get off upon the "elevated level" and take the fast train there. which stops only every thirty or forty blocks. Or, if you do not wish this, you can descent by the same elevator down to the local subway.

 

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Wednesday
Jul012009

Roof Over New York (1949)

It's amazing how popular the idea of roofing in an entire city was in the 20th century. The concept of one day controlling the weather was likely exciting because it meant absolute domination over nature and one's environment. I suspect to conquer weather was the penultimate in shaping humankind's destiny, while the ultimate was likely immortality. (Someone's still working on that one, right?)

This illustration from the August 28, 1949 San Antonio Light (San Antonio, TX) depicts the future New York City skyline. The picture accompanies an article from Prof. A. M. Low, which we'll take a look at in the coming weeks.

CLIMATE "TO ORDER" -- One of the things to come, Professor A. M. Low points out, is likely to be the weather-controlled city. Using the famous New York skyline as a "model," the artist's conception, above, embodies some of the best scientific thinking of our time. "Roofs" like the one pictured may be constructed over cities and linked to skyscrapers to provide scientific control of weather. Open cross section of "roof" shows weather experts busy controlling temperature, etc.

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Sunday
May172009

Predictions for 1993 (1893)

The March 25, 1893 Newark Daily Advocate (Newark, OH) ran predictions of what the world of 1993 would look like. Excerpts from each of the four journalists (George Alfred Townson, Kate Field, Nym Crinkle, and John Swinton) appear below. The entire article is embedded below, or you can read it here.

Substitute the word "blog" for "book" in the last prediction and it could have easily been written today.

  • Where will be our greatest city? In all probability Chicago. There will be wonderful cities in the west, none more beautiful and extensive than Salt Lake City; but unless all signs fail Chicago will take precedence.
  • So called temperance legislation is a temporary aberration of well meaning but narrow minded men and women with whom sentimentality supplants reason, and who actually thinks morals are an affair of legislation. One hundred years hence personal liberty will be more than a phrase. When it is a fact sumptuary laws will be as impossible as witch burning is now.
  • The encyclopedic man, who makes a show of knowing all things, will give way to the specialist, who makes an effort to know one thing and know it well.
  • They will have more leisure to think. The present rate of headlong material activity cannot be kept up for another hundred years.
  • While I am writing this the statesmen of the country are asking themselves if it is not time to make laws which shall restrict if they do not put a stop to immigration.
  • In 100 years Denver will be as big as New York and in the center of a vast population.
  • If the republic remains politically compact and doesn't fall apart at the Mississippi river, Canada will be either part of it or an independent sovereignty, and the northern shore of the Gulf of Mexico will be the Riviera of the western continent.
  • I guess that there will be great political and social changes in our country before the year 1993, and that these changes will be advantageous to the community at large. I guess that before the next century shall end the functions and powers of our government will be greatly enlarged; that railroads, telegraphs and many other things now held as private spoil will be public property; that law, medicine and theology will be more reasonable than they now are; that the inventions and discoveries will be greater than we have ever yet had, and that the welfare of mankind will be higher than it is in this age of confusion.
  • Every person of fairly good education and of restless mind writes a book. As a rule, it is a superficial book, but it swells the bulk and it indicated the cerebral unrest that is trying to express itself. We have arrived at a condition in which more books are printed than the world can read. This is true not only of books that are not worth reading, but it is true of the books that are. All this I take to be the result of an intellectual affranchisement that is new, and of a dissemination of knowledge instead of concentration of culture. Everybody wants to say something. But it is slowly growing upon the world that everybody has not got something to say. Therefore one may even at this moment detect the causes which will produce reaction. In 100 years there will not be so many books printed, but there will be more said. That seems to me to be inevitable.

1893 March 25 Newark Daily Advocate - Newark OH Pa Leo Future

Previously on Paleo-Future:

Wednesday
Mar182009

City of the Future Postcards (circa 1910)

 

Leominster in the Future (postcard circa 1910)

At the turn of the 20th century, the postcard seemed to be a popular medium with which to imagine the future. While these depictions were often tongue-in-cheek they, like the Jetsons in the 1960s, held some kernel of truth about society's expectations for what was to come. We see in these two cards some things we might obviously expect like flying machines, subways, cars and monorail trains. The postcards however, also illustrate things that we take for granted today, such as a department of sewers building. Don't forget pneumatic tubes which, as well all know, made the postal service obsolete in 1924. I sure do love when my packages are delivered via Parcel Tube. How did we live without it?

These postcards from the early part of the 20th century were somewhat over-the-top in their depictions (see the floating park in the sky), but they reflected the optimism of the time, as inventions like the automobile and aeroplane ushered humanity into a fast, new mobile future.

Claremont, N.H. in the Future (postcard circa 1910)

Previously on Paleo-Future: