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Entries in new york (9)

Thursday
Aug182011

New York's tallest building of the future (1881)

When cartoonist Thomas Nast drew this illustration of future Manhattan for Harper's Weekly in 1881, Trinity Church was the tallest building in New York, with its spire and cross reaching 281 feet into the heavens. Until September of 2001, the North Tower of the World Trade Center stood as the tallest building in the city at 1,368 feet. Today, the Empire State Building is the tallest building in New York at 1,250 feet tall, but with any luck that's likely to change soon(ish).

The much delayed $3.1 billion One World Trade Center (formerly known as the Freedom Tower) will stand on the former site of the World Trade Center as the tallest building in New York at 1,776 feet. It's currently scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013. Let's just say I'm not holding my breath for that date.

Image from the August 27, 1881 Harper's Weekly and the book Predictions: Pictorial Predictions From the Past by John Durant.

Sunday
Mar132011

Coming to America: Alpha the Robot Hops the Pond (1934)

February, 1934 Practical Mechanics (image: http://www.davidbuckley.net/)

In 1932 American newspapers started publishing wildly exaggerated stories about a British robot named Alpha that allegedly blinked to life, rose to his feet, and shot his inventor. Some of the stories quoted the inventor, Harry May, as saying that he knew Alpha would turn against him one day. An editorial from Louisiana even proclaimed that the era of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was upon us. But just two years later Alpha made a trip to the United States in a whirlwind of guns, gizmos and girls.

In this film from 1934 we see Alpha shooting a gun loaded with blanks, answering questions about his height and weight, and being particularly mean to a brunette who apparently wasn't blonde enough to be Alpha's bride. Though Professor May claimed that Alpha autonomously responded to speech with 20 or 30 wax cylinders that played pre-recorded answers, this seems quite unlikely.

The November 5, 1934 issue of Time magazine describes a demonstration of Alpha at Macy's department store in Manhattan:

Last week Alpha, the robot, made its first public appearance in the U. S. One of the most ingenious automatons ever contrived by man, a grim and gleaming monster 6 ft. 4 in. tall, the robot was brought to Manhattan by its owner-inventor-impresario, Professor Harry May of London, and installed on the fifth floor of R. H. Macy & Co.'s department store. Encased from head to foot in chromium-plated steel armor, Alpha sat on a specially constructed dais with its cumbrous feet securely bolted to the floor, stared impassively over the knot of newshawks and store officials waiting for the first demonstration. The creature had a great sullen slit of a mouth, vast protuberant eyes, shaggy curls of rolled metal. In one mailed fist Alpha clutched a revolver.

It's rather peculiar to read later in the article that he's described as giving a Nazi salute during the demonstration. There's no clear indication of what could be viewed as a Nazi salute from the film I've seen, and without a byline for the Time article I can't even begin to guess about the writer's sympathies.

The end of the article does help to clarify what happened that day, when Alpha was purported to have sprung to life and shot his inventor:

Once it fired its pistol without warning, blasting the skin off the professor's arm from wrist to elbow. Another time it lowered its arm unexpectedly, struck an assistant on the shoulder, bruised him so badly that he was hospitalized.

Top image cropped from a February, 1934 issue of Practical Mechanics magazine featured at davidbuckley.net

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: 

 

Sunday
Apr192009

Steel Time Capsule for 2056 A.D. (1956)

In 1956 the American Iron and Steel Institute placed a time capsule inside the cornerstone of an office building at 150 East 42nd St, New York City. To mark the occasion the Institute took out an advertisement in newspapers throughout Steel Country. This version of the ad was found in the October 30, 1956 Lebanon Daily News (Lebanon, PA). Stay tuned later in the week as we examine the contents of this time capsule, which is to be opened in 2056 A.D.

Previously on Paleo-Future:

Wednesday
Jan092008

"Just Imagine" Pictures Life and Love 50 Years From Today (1930)

The September 14, 1930 Syracuse Herald (Syracuse, NY) ran a piece about the people of 1980 who may stumble upon the 1930 film Just Imagine. At the time this article was published the film had not yet been released. The entire article appears below.

Hollywood, Sept. 13. - New Yorkers of 50 years hence may draw down from the dusty shelves where forgotten movies rest a quaint roll of celluloid dated 1930 and labeled "Just Imagine," and gather en masse to ascertain what prophetic powers, if any, were possessed by a certain trio of gay song-showmen of our day, the Messrs, DeSylva, Brown and Henderson.

 

Should this transpire, that future audience will see a screen musical comedy conception, by 1930 prophets, of what their life, customs and dress would be.

Just how good a picture "Just Imagine" will be remains to be seen, but at present it stands out as the most unusual movie idea in Hollywood, one that has not been done before, and that is saying much.

Two or three pictures, true, have looked into the future for their settings, but none on so large a scale as this. "Just Imagine" is laid in New York in 1980.

Secrecy has surrounded work on the picture, and sets built to scale in a vast hangar miles from Hollywood were used to depict "a metropolis where traffic proceeds on many levels, where boats dock at the feet of 230-story skyscrapers, and aerial traffic has supplanted the automobile.

Science has achieved the miracle of reviving a Brooklynite (El Brendel) struck by lightning in 1930. Television long since has ceased to be a novelty, and people have numbers instead of names.

There is a marriage tribunal which confers a desired maiden on the most worthy of her suitors, and this supplies the plot.

The hero (John Garrick), an ocean air-liner pilot, loves Maureen O'Sullivan, but a newspaper publisher (Kenneth Thomson), wins the tribunal's approval.

Garrick, appealing his case, has four months in which to prove his superiority to Thomson - but what can he do? The act that made Lindbergh an international hero in 1927 is just a routine job to him.

Then a scientist offers him opportunity to be the first to fly to Mar, to become the Lindbergh of 1980. Of [unreadable] hectic adventures on the strange planet, to which he is accompanied by Frank Albertson (his friend) and Brendel, the stowaway.

"Just Imagine," say its authors, is not intended, of course, as serious prophecy, but as entertainment.


See also:
Just Imagine (1930)
Instant Baby Machine (1930)
Movie Trends of the 21st Century (1982)

 

Sunday
Oct142007

Future City: 20 | 21

The Skyscraper Museum, at 39 Battery Place in New York, has an exhibit opening at the end of the month that will certainly interest paleo-futurists.

New York Modern, which opens on October 24 and runs through March 2008, looks back at prophecies of the skyscraper city in the early 20th century when the first dreams of a fantastic vertical metropolis took shape. From the invention of the tall office building and high-rise hotels in the late 19th century, New York began to expand upward, and by 1900, the idea of unbridled growth and inevitably increasing congestion was lampooned in cartoons in the popular press and critiqued by prominent architects and urban reformers.

(Found via Suggested Donation)

See also:
The Metropolis of Tomorrow (1929)
Pictures Stately Edifices (1923)
New London in the Future (1909)
Collier's Illustrated Future of 2001 (1901)
What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years (Ladies Home Journal, 1900)
The Predictions of a 14-Year-Old (Milwaukee Excelsior, 1901)

Friday
Aug102007

Transportation in 2000 A.D. (1966)

This interview from the 1966 radio documentary 2000 A.D. asks William Roman, chairman of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, about our transportation needs for the future. An excerpt appears below but you can hear the entire (5 minute) interview here.

I think we're going to find new types of transportation. I think the vertical rise aircraft is just about to come into its own, so that we'll be able to have airports which will be close in to the central parts of our cities. And these vertical rise aircraft will take very little space. They'll be able to take-off and carry people and I think they're going to prove to be answer to what some thought the helicopter would be able to produce for us in the past.

See also:
2000 A.D. Radio Documentary (1966)
Going Backward into 2000 (1966)
Commuter Helicopter (1947)
Disney's Magic Highway, U.S.A. (1958)
Farm to Market (1958)