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Entries in space (29)

Saturday
Jun112011

A Trip Through Space for Boys and Girls (1954)

While flipping through the 1954 book A Trip Through Space I was struck by one aspect of the interstellar story that I've never noticed in a pre-Apollo book... a girl in space!

Here at Paleofuture we've looked at quite a few books that told children of the 1950s and 60s about the wondrous world of space travel in store for them. But I can honestly say that I've never noticed one that included girls in this fantastic, space-faring future.

Exploring Space, First Men to the MoonBoytopia, The Complete Book of Space Travel; none of these depictions of future astronauts bothered to include women. A Trip Through Space was written by Catharine E. Barry, an associate curator at the Hayden Planetarium, but there isn't much information about her online. Any biographical information about Ms. Barry from readers is greatly appreciated.

Now, I know that pointing out gender inequalities of the 1950s isn't a particularly novel observation and I only own about half a dozen children's books from the 1950s and 60s that envision future space travel. So it's difficult for me to definitively say how common depictions of female astronauts were during this period without more extensive research. With that said, I suspect that the girl in A Trip Through Space is a rare depiction indeed. 

I'm fascinated by what kind of stories we tell our children and how that shapes our society. The stories we hear as kids no doubt greatly influence our perspective on what's possible for the future, both globally and personally. Sally Ride became the first American woman in space* in 1983 -- the year I was born, in fact. What stories did Sally Ride hear growing up that set her on a path pursuing science? Growing up, how did she see herself fitting into the space program? As a 27 year old man who didn't grow up during the Space Age it's sometimes hard for me to gain personal perspective on things like this. 

I emailed Virginia Postrel, author of The Future and Its Enemies, columnist at Bloomberg and editor of the website Deep Glamour so that I might better understand the gender politics of the time. When I moved to Los Angeles I had dinner with Virginia, her husband and Paul Boutin at Cafe 50s, where a copy of the 1959 kid's book You Will Go to the Moon hangs on the wall. Over dinner Virginia talked about how much she loved that book when she was a little girl. Virginia's email to me appears below. 

When I was in kindergarten (roughly 1965), we had a time every day where we could look at books. My favorite books were You Will Go to the Moon (1959) and a book on the planets. I did read You Will Go to the Moon nearly every day, and I never noticed that the character in the book is a boy or that the text says, "You will be a space man." I only noticed that decades later when the book turned up on the wall of Cafe 50s and I later acquired a used copy. As a child I never explicitly aspired to be an astronaut. It was more that I assumed that in the future people would go into space, perhaps on business trips or as tourists. I never got to the details. I don't know that more women being represented would have had much effect on me, because I've never had much of a problem identifying with male role models, but it might have made a difference for other girls. Later, in the early 1970s, when I was 12 or 13 I watched Star Trek, which, of course, had plenty of female characters. The recurring ones were a switchboard operator, a nurse, and a secretary, but there were nonrecurring scientists, diplomats, historians, etc.

 

And it goes without saying that your comments about this time period -- educated or otherwise -- are more than welcome.

*The first woman in space was Russian Valentina Tereshkova in 1963.

Sunday
Apr172011

Construction Begins on the Space Needle (1961)

Fifty years ago today construction began on the Space Needle in Seattle. Just a year later, the 605 foot (185 meter) tower, which featured a revolving restaurant and observation deck, would be the crown jewel of the 1962 Seattle World's Fair. Dubbed the Century 21 Exposition, the Fair planners were eager to showcase American ingenuity with eyes firmly fixed on the future. The space race had begun in 1957 with the Soviet launch of Sputnik, so it only made sense that Americans would want the Space Needle to become a prominent symbol for the new Space Age.

The ad below appeared in the February, 1962 issue of Holiday magazine.

It's April 21, 1962, in Seattle... World's Fair time! The curtain's going up on the 21st Century... and on the most exciting preview ever seen. This is Seattle's spectacular Space-Age World's Fair, where the epic of man's journey into the next 100 years will unfold for you. What's ahead? How will man live? What will he see? Look at cities in the year 2000, see homes whose walls are jets of air, where cordless appliances work for you, cars ride without wheels, TV wrist telephones speed everyday communications. Time and distance wll disappear in the gigantic, pillar-less Coliseum Century 21, jutting eleven stories up from the heart of the fair. You'll soar past the moon into outer galaxies -- no space suit, no gravity, in the $9 million complex of the United States Science Pavilion. You will discover the secrets of the future in these six gleaming buildings rising above lighted fountains and courtyard pools. But it's not all the story of man's great tomorrows. Much of this $80 million show will be a glittering world of today. Dine atop the towering 60-story Space Needle which revolves to view Mt. Rainier, the Olympic and Cascade Ranges. Stroll Boulevards of the World filled with the sights and sounds of foreign lands. Thrill to the Monorail as it whisks you the mile from downtown Seattle in 95 seconds.

 

 

Thursday
Apr072011

Picnics on Mars in the Year 2012 (1962)

 

 

We've looked at a lot of the ways in which advertisers have positioned themselves as being in touch with "the future." The future's been used to advertise appliance stores, power companies, airlines, phone companies, aluminumTVs, beer and refrigerators, refrigerators, refrigerators; pretty much any consumer product or service you can think of.

By associating their brand with cutting edge design and glamour, advertisers are afforded the leniency of fantasy and fluff while still maintaining some level of respectability. The future is a perfect foil for conservative brands -- even something as boring as an insurance company -- to project fanciful ideas rooted in the long-term thinking expected of them.

The advertisement below is for the insurance company Michigan Mutual Liability and appeared in the September 12, 1962 Record-Eagle (Traverse City, MI). It predicts everything from picnics on Mars to oddly shaped money in 2012, significant for the insurance company as its centennial year.

HAVE A HAPPY TRIP! By 2012 AD, Mars may make a nice site for a family picnic, via your space craft, with a few stops for refreshments at space platforms along the way. Earth's Moon may be the site of our suburbs. Our Sun with an absolute surface temperature of 6000 degrees, is apt to be too warm for a pleasure trip. But Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus, Mercury and Venus may be more hospitable, and there are of course, trillions of other planets and suns beyond our Solar System to tempt the space traveler.

This month marks our 50th birthday. While it's fun to look back on our past half century, we think it's even more interesting to look ahead to our next one. And here's what we plan for the year 2012:

Whether "autos" are traveling on "space beams" to other planets, operating beneath oceans, on compressed air, or are radar controlled... we plan to be far ahead in anticipating our policyholders' insurance needs as we have been in the past. (For instance, we started providing auto insurance when horse drawn vehicles were still a relative commonplace. We pioneered in offering motorists discounts that grow larger each accident and claim free year. More recently, we introduced a pay-as-you-drive plan that lets motorists spread costs on a monthly basis.)

Entire communities may be enclosed beneath huge plastic domes providing community-wide air-conditioning in 2012. Or they may float in space... or be underground. Wherever they are, we plan to provide our homeowner policyholders with the greatest amount of financial protection practical, against personal liability, property damage, casualty losses... just as we do now. (We pioneered in combining four major homeowner insurance needs in a single package. And Now -- you can pay for your Homeowners Insurance, with us, on a monthly basis.)

The shape of money may change, but we'll pass on all savings, all economies, to our policyholders in the year 2012... just as we do today. (Michigan Mutual Liability Company, you see, is owned by its policyholders -- operated for their benefit, so they're entitled to the most complete insurance it's practical to provide... at the lowest cost consistent with sound management.)

We plan to continue our growth pattern, too... having already become one of the ten largest companies of our kind since we pioneered with Workmen's Compensation Insurance back in 1912.

Secure your future... Insure with Michigan Mutual

 

Wednesday
Jan192011

Space Farmer of the Year 2012 (1982)

The 1982 Kids' Whole Future Catalog is just bursting at the seams with amazing advancements from the world of yestermorrow. From space hotels and universal language translators to factories in space and schools in the sky, this catalog fed the imaginations of countless rugrats in the 1980s. Today we have an excerpt from the catalog that imagines an interview with a space farmer of the year 2012.

 

Interview with a Space Farmer

Island One, January 16, 2012

On a recent tour through the Colonies of the United Universe, we stopped at Island One and talked with a farmer there:

Q: At lunch today, the waiter told us that all the food on the menu was produced here on Island One. Do you import any food from Earth?

A: No, it's too expensive. We raise every bit of food for all 10,000 of our citizens right her on this farm.

Q: You must have a very large area under cultivation?

A: Not really. We can grow all the food necessary to support one person in an area just 6 1/2 ft. long and 6 1/2 ft. wide. The entire farm takes up just 100 acres.

Q: How can you raise so much food in such a small space? 

A: Well, for one thing, we raise most of our crops - hydroponically - in water instead of soil. That saves a lot of space because we can grow plants on tall vertical frames. Also, our farm produces food continuously - one crop after another, all year-round. It's always summer here, and we don't have any cloudy days or storms to contend with.

Q: Do you raise any animals? 

A: Yes, they help us recycle leftovers. We raise our cows and goats almost entirely on corn stalks, cucumber vines and other crop wastes. Our chickens eat table scraps. Rabbits are our main sources of meat. They take up less space than hogs or cows and they need only half as much feed to produce a pound of meat. We also raise fish in those ponds over there.

Q: Where do you get the. water for the fish ponds?  

A: All the water in the colony is used over and over again. Water for drinking and cooking comes from the farm's dehumidifiers, which pull moisture out of the air. Waste water is purified in a solar furnace and then piped back to the farm. 

Q: Have you had any crop failures? 

A: Not so far. When we started the farm, we inspected the shipments of plants and seeds from Earth very carefully to make sure they didn't contain any weeds or insects. Now our farm is pretty much pest-free. 

Q: Do you miss your farm back on Earth? 

A: Not a bit! I've even learned to like rabbitburgers! 


 

The following page has an assessment of what was on the Gemini and Skylab menus, comparing them to the swanky Island One menu of the future. You could even send away for a package of freeze dried ice cream for $1.20, postpaid of course.

 

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Thursday
Dec022010

First Men to the Moon (1960)

The 1960 book First Men to the Moon by Wernher von Braun tells the story of John Mason, a fictional astronaut of the future bound for the moon. The dedication page reads, "To Iris and Margrit [von Braun's daughters] who will live in a world in which flights to the moon will be commonplace."

In the book we read of the training and technical expertise necessary for a journey into space, accompanied by amazing illustrations and diagrams by Fred Freeman. As one of my favorite pre-Apollo books of space retro-futurism I can't recommend this book highly enough. With hard to find retrofuture books like these I sometimes wonder if there might be a market for them if a publisher were to reissue them.

Below I've included a couple of illustrations from the book which show what the fashionable spaceman of the future will be wearing. Look for more from this retro-futuristic classic coming soon (on this blog at least).

 

 

 

Previously on Paleo-Future:

Monday
Nov222010

This Age of Power and Wonder (1930s)

Companies of the early 20th century would often include collectible cards with their foodstuffs and tobacco smokes. The New York Public Library has an extensive collection of these cigarette cards available for viewing online, including many from a series by Max Cigarettes called This Age of Power and Wonder. This series from 1935-38 includes predictions of robot servants, spaceships, live television from exotic locations, and ubiquitous airports atop city high rises. Somewhat ironically for a cigarette manufacturer, card number six in this series of 250 predicted great advances in the treatment of cancer.

 

Wells Forecasts Space-Ships

 Television of the Future

Our Future Servants?

How London May Be Lighted

 The Amphibian At Work

 Atomic Fuel

Aerodrome of the Future

War on Cancer

 

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Friday
Jul232010

Space Station (1956)

Today's retro-futuristic eye candy comes from the 1956 book The Complete Book of Space Travel. This donut-shaped space station, popularized by Wernher von Braun, popped up on TV, in films and even on lunch boxes. Do the kids these days still carry lunch boxes? I really have no idea. I vaguely recall carrying an ALF lunch box to school, but I may be stealing that memory from a Full House episode or something.

 

Previously on Paleo-Future: