Turn-of-the-century futurism: “Hot And Cold Air From Spigots”

For those who like the Ladies’ Handbook of Home Treatment series, you’ll love this set of futuristic predictions from the Ladies’ Home Journal of 1901. [There’s a full text transcription here.]

Metafilter users, despite their habitual and understandable scepticism, have been unable to debunk it.

I’m struggling to identify my favourite bit! I think it’s this one, for the sheer mix of “missed it by *that* much” set of predictions:

Ready-cooked meals will be bought from establishments similar to our bakeries of today. They will purchase materials in tremendous wholesale quantities and sell the cooked foods at a price much lower than the cost of individual cooking. Food will be served hot or cold to private houses in pneumatic tubes or automobile wagons. The meal being over, the dishes used will be packed and returned to the cooking establishments where they will be washed. Such wholesale cookery will be done in electric laboratories rather than in kitchens. These laboratories will be equipped with electric stoves, and all sorts of electric devices, such as coffee-grinders, egg-beaters, stirrers, shakers, parers, meat-choppers, meat-saws, potato-mashers, lemon-squeezers, dish-washers, dish-dryers and the like. All such utensils will be washed in chemicals fatal to disease microbes. Having one’s own cook and purchasing one’s own food will be an extravagance.

* Some surprisingly accurate predictions: Gro-Lights, refrigerated transport, air conditioning, fast rail, fruit and vegetable embiggening, histology and medical imaging, telephony, photography, motor vehicles everywhere, snowmobiles, science in space, spy satellites, military submarines, peak coal, seedless grapes.

* Things they got almost right: Youtube, Internet goods ordering, prepared food delivery, genetically engineered food, instant news dissemination, extinction of species.

* A couple of things they failed to imagine: routine air travel, ICBMs.

* Over-optimism: free universal university, black and blue roses, universal hydroelectricity and wave power, pest extermination, near-free rapid public transit, traffic-free cities, ubiquitous athleticism, the elimination of microbial disease.

[via Pink Thoughts]



Categories: history, technology

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5 replies

  1. Too adorable. I loved the way you described it as “missed it by that much”. I do love a Get Smart reference.
    blue milk’s last blog post..Shaken not stirred: combining masculinity with feminism

  2. Prediction #27: Few drugs will be swallowed or taken into the stomach unless needed for the direct treatment of that organ itself. Drugs needed by the lungs, for instance, will be applied directly to those organs through the skin and flesh. They will be carried with the electric current applied without pain to the outside skin of the body. Microscopes will lay bare the vital organs, through the living flesh, of men and animals. The living body will to all medical purposes be transparent. Not only will it be possible for a physician to actually see a living, throbbing heart inside the chest, but he will be able to magnify and photograph any part of it. This work will be done with rays of invisible light.

    At the time of this prediction Roentgen had already discovered X-Rays – but to see things such as a beating heart either PET(Positron Emission Tomography), MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) or Ultrasound is used. X-rays are probably too dangerous for that use.

    Prediction #29: To England in Two Days. Fast electric ships, crossing the ocean at more than a mile a minute, will go from New York to Liverpool in two days. The bodies of these ships will be built above the waves. They will be supported upon runners, somewhat like those of the sleigh. These runners will be very buoyant. Upon their under sides will be apertures expelling jets of air. In this way a film of air will be kept between them and the water’s surface. This film, together with the small surface of the runners, will reduce friction against the waves to the smallest possible degree. Propellers turned by electricity will screw themselves through both the water beneath and the air above. Ships with cabins artificially cooled will be entirely fireproof. In storm they will dive below the water and there await fair weather.

    Hydrofoils were patented before then, I think, and submersible are no doubt possible. Interestingly, he mentions the boundary layer effect which is a lot trickier to use than he states – these days the preferred method is lots of fine holes emitting the air rather than a high pressure sheet.

  3. At the time of this prediction Roentgen had already discovered X-Rays – but to see things such as a beating heart either PET(Positron Emission Tomography), MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) or Ultrasound is used. X-rays are probably too dangerous for that use.

    Well, there’s conventional coronary angiography, which has been around for a goodly while now. Though whether that is quite seeing the heart itself might be debatable by pedants. Not that there’s any of those around here.
    If they’d predicted nuclear medicine, I would have been particularly impressed.

  4. Not that there’s any of those around here.

    Whut? No pedants? I demand my money back!

  5. You’ve got to wonder about what was meant by ‘thunderbolts’ in #8, particularly when he talks about shells destroying whole cities at the start of that forecast.

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