I don’t know about you, but I remember figuring out, in grade school, how OLD I’d be in the year 2000.
I think imagining the year 2022 was beyond my capacity (then and quite possibly now.)
I never dreamed flowers would be emancipated. Or that we’d all have to wear glasses because skyscapers ruin our sight. These predictions of life 100 years hence are fascinating and believe it or not, many points are quite accurate!
Please note: OCR (optical character recognition) even now in 2022, isn’t perfect and your Esteemed Editor got tired half-way through of correcting all but the most grievous errors. Lordy, now I’m even talking 1922 style!)
From the New York herald (New York, N.Y.), May 7, 1922
By W. L. George
THERE is a good old rule which bids us never prophesy unless we know, but, all the same, when one cannot prophesy one may guess, especially if one is sure of being out of the way when the reckoning comes. Therefore it is without anxiety, that I suggest a picture of this world a hundred years hence, and venture as my first guess that the world at that time would be remarkable to one of our ghosts, not so much because it was so different as because it was so similar.
In the main the changes which we may expect must be brought about by science. It is easier to bring about a revolutionary scientific discovery such as that of the X-ray than to alter in the least degree the quality of emotion that arises between a man and a maid. There will probably be many new
Xrays in 2022, but the people whom they illumine will be much the same. From which the reader may conclude that I do not expect anything startling in the way of scientific discovery. That is not the case; I am convinced that in 2022 the advancement of science will be amazing, but it will be nothing like so amazing as is the present day in relation to a hundred years ago. A sight of the world today would surprise President Jefferson much more, I suspect, than the world of 2022 would surprise the little girl who sells candies at Grand Central Station. For Jefferson knew nothing of railroads, telegraphs, telephones, automobiles, aeroplanes, gramophones, movies, radium, &c.; he did not even know hot and cold bathrooms. The little girl at Grand Central is a blase child; to her these things are commonplace; the year 2022 would have to produce something very startling to interest her ghost. The sad thing about discovery is that it works toward its own extinction, and that the more we discover the less there is left. It does not follow that, scientifically, the year 2022 should fail to be amazing.
I suspect that commercial flying will have become entirely commonplace. The passenger steamer will survive on the coasts but it will have disappeared on the main routes, and will have been replaced by flying convoys, which should cover the distance between London and New York in about twelve hours. As I am anxious that the reader should not look upon me as a visionary, I would point out that in an airplane collision which happened recently a British passenger plane was traveling at 180 miles an hour, which speed would have brought it across the Atlantic in eighteen hours. It is therefore quite conceivable that America may become separated from Europe by only eight hours. The problem is mainly one of artificial heating and ventilation to enable the aeronauts to survive.
The same cause will affect the railroads, which at that time will probably have ceased to carry passengers except for suburban traffic. Railroads may continue to handle freight, but it may be that even this will be taken from them by road traffic, because the automobile does not have to carry the enormous overhead charges of tracks. Certainly food, mails and all light goods will be taken over from the railroads by road trucks. As for the horse, it will probably no longer be bred…
The people of the year 2022 will probably never see a wire outlined against the sky: it is practically certain that wireless telegraphy and wireless telephones will have crushed the cable system long before the century is done. Possibly, too, power may travel through the air when means are found to prevent enormous voltages being suddenly discharged in the wrong place.
Coal will not be exhausted, but our reserves will be seriously depleted, and so will those of oil. One of the world dangers a century hence will be a shortage of fuel, but It is likely that by that time a power from tides, from the sun, probably from radium and other forms of radial energy. It may also be that atomic energy will be harnessed. If It is true that matter is kept together by forces known as electrons, it is possible that we shall know how to disperse matter so as to release the electron as a force. This force would last as long as matter, therefore as long as the earth itself.
The movies will be more attractive, as long before 2022 they will have been replaced by the kinephone, which now exists only in the laboratory. That is the figures on the screen will not only move, but they will have their natural colors and speak with ordinary voices. Thus, the stage as we know it to-day may entirely disappear, which does not mean the doom of art, since the movie actress of 2022 will not only not need to know how to smile but also how to talk.
… it is more interesting to ask ourselves what will be the appearance of our cities a hundred years hence. To my mind they will offer a mixed outlook, because mankind never tears anything down completely to build up something else; it erects the new while retaining the old; thus, many buildings now standing will be preserved. It is conceivable that the Capitol at Washington, many of the universities and churches will be standing a hundred years hence, and that they will, almost unaltered, be preserved by tradition. Also, many private dwellings will survive and will be inhabited by individual families. I think that they will have passed through the cooperative stage, which may be expected fifty or sixty years hence, when tne servant problem has become completely unmanageable and when private dwellings organize themselves to engage staffs to cook, clean, and mend for the groups. That cooperative stage will be the last kick of the private mistress who wants to retain in her household some sort of slave. In 2022 she will have been bent by circumstances, but she will have recovered her private dwelling, being served for seven hours a day by an orderly. The woman who becomes an orderly will be as well paid as If she were a stenographer, will wear her own clothes, be called “Miss,” belong to her trade union and work under union rules. Naturally the work of the household, which is being reduced day by day, will in 2022 be a great deal lighter.
I believe that most of the cleaning required to-day in a house will have been done away with. In the first place, through the disappearance of coal in all places where electricity is not made there will be no more smoke, perhaps not even that of tobacco. In the second place I have a vision of walls, furniture and hangings made of more or less compressed papier mache, bound with brass or taping along the edges. Thus, instead of scrubbing floors, the year 2022 will unscrew the brass edges or unstitch the tapes and peel off the dirty surface of the floor or curtains. Then every year a new floor board will be laid. One may hope that standard chairs, tables, carpets, will be peeled in the same way.
Similar reforms apply to cooking, a great deal of which will survive among old fashioned people, but a great deal more of which will probably be avoided by the use of synthetic foods. It is conceivable, though not certain, that in 2022 a complete meal may be taken in the shape of four pills. This is not entirely visionary; I am convinced that corned beef hash and pumpkin pie will still exist, but the pill lunch will roll by their side.
But at that time few private dwellings will be built: in their stead will rise the community dwellings, where the majority of mankind will be living. They will probably be located in garden spaces and rise to forty or fifty floors, housing easily four or five thousand families. This is not exaggerated, since in one New York hotel to-day three thousand people sleep every night. It would mean also that each block would have a local authority of its own. I imagine these dwellings as affording one room to each adult of the family and one room for common use. Such cooking as then exists will be conducted by the local authority of the block, which will also undertake laundry, mending, cleaning and will provide a complete nursery for the children of the tenants. Perhaps at that time we shall have attained a dream which I often nurse, namely, the city roofed with glass. That city would be a complete unit, with accommodations for houses, offices, factories and open spaces, all this carefully allocated. The roof would completely do away with weather and would maintain an even temperature to be fixed by the taste of the period. Artificial ventilation would sup- press wind. As for the open spaces, if the temperature were warm they would exhibit a continual show of flowers, which would be emancipated from winter and summer; in other words, winter would not come however long the descendants of Mr. Hutchinson might wait.
The family would still exist, even though it is not doing very well to-day. It Is inconceivable that some sort of feeling between parents and children should not persist, though I am of course unable to tell what that feeling will be. I Imagine that the link will be thinner than it Is to-day, because the child is likely to be taken over by the State, not only schooled but fed and clad, and at the end of Its training placed In a post suitable to Its abilities.
This may be affected by birth control, which In 2022 will be legal all over the world. There will be stages: the first results of birth control will be to reduce the birth rate; then the State will step in. as it loes in France, and make it worth peolie’s while to have more children; then the State will discover that it has made things too easy and that people are having children recklessly; finally some sort of balance will establish Itself between the State demand for children and the national supply. Largely the condition of the family will le governed by the position of woman, because woman is the family, while man is nerely Its supporter. It is practically certain that In 2022 nearly all women will lave discarded the idea that they are prlnarily “makers of men.” Most fit women then he following an individual career. Many positions will he open to them and a ;reat many women will have risen high, rhe year 2022 will probably see a large number of women in Congress, a great many on the judicial bench, many m in civil service posts and is perhaps some in the President’s Cabinet. But it is unlikely that women will have an achieved equality with men. Cautious feminists such as myself realize that things go slowly and that a brief hundred years will not wipe out im the effects on women of 30,000 years of slavery. Women will work, partly beeausc they want to and partly because they will so be able to. Thus women will pay their share in the upkeep of home and family. The above suggestion of community buildings, where all the household work will be done by professionals, will liberate the average wife and enable her out of her wages to pay her share of the household work which she dislikes. an Marriage will still exist much as it is to-day, for mankind has an Inveterate taste for the institution, but divorce will probably be as easy everywhere as it Is in Nevada. In view, however, of the lmproved position of woman and her earning power, she will not only cease to be entitled to alimony, but she will be expected, after the divorce, to pay her share of the the maintenance of her children.
As regards the politics of 2022, I should expect the form of the State to be much the same. A few rearrangements may a8 have taken place on the lines of self-determination; for Instance, Austria may have united with Germany, the South American republics may have federated, etc., but I do not believe that there will be a superstate. There will still be republics an and monarchies; possibly, In 2022, the Spanish, Italian, Dutch and Norwegian tin kings may have fallen, but for a variety of tal reasons, either lack of advancement [there will still be]kings in Sweden, .lugo-Slavia, gw Greece, Rumania and Great Britain. On the inside, these States may have slightly changed, for there prevails a tendency to socialization which has nothing to do with socialism. Most of the European governments are unconsciously nationalizing a number of industries, and this will go on. One may therefore preme that in 2022 most States will have nationalized railways, telegraphs, teleones, canals, docks, water supply, gas and electricity. Other industries wil1 exist much as they do to-day, but it likely that the State will be inclined to control them, to limit their profits, and to bitrate between them and the workers, We find a hint of this in America in the anti-trust acts; a hundred years hence e tendency will be much stronger. It is worth noting as an international factor at b/that time purely national Industries wi11 almost have disappeared, and that the work of the world will be in the hands of controlled combines governing the supply a commodity from China to Peru. Unfortunately these international relains through trade are not likely to have perfected political conditions. There will still be war. The wars of that period may a little less frequent than they are today, and be limited by arrangements such the Pacific agreement, the agreement between Canada and the United States of Arierica to leave their frontier unfortified, but it will still be there. I suspect at those wars to come will be made horrible beyond my conception by new poison gases, inextinguishable flames and …smoke clouds. In those wars the airplane bomb will seem as out of date as is today tne hatchet. War may ultimately disappear, but this lies beyond the limits this article and even beyond those of mind.
As regards the United States in particular, it is likely that the country will have me to a complete settlement, with a populaition of about 240,000,000. The idea of North and South, East and West, will have not disappeared; by that time the American race will have taken so definite a form it immigration will not affect it. The African from Key West and the Amerind from Seattle will be much the same.. That is to say as regards race, but I feel at mentally the American of 2022 will ve enormously changed.
He is to-day e most enterprising creature in the orld, and is driven by a continual urge to make money. That is because the modern American lives in a country that only partly developed, and where imense wealth still lies ready for him to take. In 2022 that will be as finished as is to-day in England. American wealth will then he either developed or known, and all of it will belong to somebody, there will he no more opportunity in Anerica than there is in England to-day. lose Americans will know that it is actically certain that they will die much the same position as the one in which they were born. Those Americans will therefore be less enterprising and much mire pleasure loving. They will have rebelled against long hours: the chances be that in 2022 few people will work more than seven hours a day, if as much. The effect of this, which I am sure sounds regrettable to many of my readers will,. in my opinion, be good. It was essenia1 that the American race should be capable of intense labor and intense ambition if it was to develop its vast country, but one result has been haste, overwork, ise, all of which is bad for the nerves. 2022 America will have made her forae and will he enjoying it as well as she n. I think that she will be a happier counr than she is to-day. The appeal of alth will be less because wealth II be difficult to attain, so those aericans to come will be producing in t and literature infinitely more than they e producing to-day. To-day, in fiction, America leads the world by sincerity, tli and fearlessness, hut the American novel of significance is a novel of revolt alnst the thralls of money, of convention and of puritanism. In 2022 Ameriran srature will be a literature of culture, e battle will he over and the muzzle There will be no more things one n’t say, and things one can’t think No ubt there will be In 2022 people who think as they would have thought in 1022, even a little earlier, but a great liberaln of mind will prevail, but is not my business to corgratulate the future, and I have no desire to do so. It Is impossible to say a thing Is good bad; all one can say is that it exists, it in case some of my readers feel revulsion when they contemplate my lunch pills or my nationalized railroads, to those vould say that they are perhaps unduly anxious. The world takes care of Itself; has been doing so for hundreds of centu ries nnri is still spinning; tne worm win te care of Itsplf In 2022: that Is Its chief pre-occupatlon. More than that. I feel convinced that … as time goes on. man id grows more intelligent, more amiable and more honest. The future will be difficult: what does it matter? So was the past difficult: … did not prevent Its turning into tolerable present.
Ready for more predictions from 100 years ago? Read on!
New York in 2022
New York professor Ferdinand Shuler imagined Manhattan as a Utopian metropolis of skyscrapers, moving sidewalks and canals instead of streets. Here are some of the fantastic things he predicted for New York City by 2022: • Buildings would be 60 to 80 stories high, composed of glass, steel and concrete. They would be enclosed in double walls of glass. • Enormous bridges would connect the gigantic buildings at different levels and help hold them up, turning the entire city into one great structure. • People working and living in the buildings would bask in scientifically diffused light, contributing to their well-being. • Rolling sidewalks operated by electromagnetic power would connect buildings. • Canals would replace streets, providing a place for bathing, canoeing and power boating. • Trains would travel on glass plates and reach speeds of 200 mph. • Anti-gravity screens would prevent airplanes from falling out of the sky. • Luxury airships would have elevators, rolling floors, swimming pools and “practically every convenience.” • Food would be selected on “a scientific basis with regard to its curative properties,” so that “the ills of the flesh” will be reduced to a minimum and few medicines taken. • Restaurants would offer self-serving tables with meals rising from kitchens one floor below.
Cleaner and brighter
New York scientist Charles Steinmetz, a proponent of electrical power, imagined a cleaner future after society adopted the “chimneyless house” by 2022. “It is reasonable to expect that all the domestic and industrial work of the city, all locomotion and transportation, will some time be done by electricity, and that in a not very distant future, fires and combustion will be altogether forbidden by law within city limits and dangerous and unsanitary,” he noted. He also predicted that humans would harness the sun’s energy. “At present, I could imagine a great structure under glass of magnifying power which could concentrate the sun’s rays,” he said. “But how the power which they would generate and which they contain could be stored, I am not ready to say.”
Can you read this?
We should all be wearing spectacles by now. Edward Van Cline, managing director of the National Committee for the Prevention of Blindness, spoke at the group’s 1922 meeting in Manhattan. Van Cline told the gathering: “An English scientist prognosticates that within 100 years every man, woman and child in the United States will be wearing glasses. He declares that the American obsession for glory, haste and the pace that kills is responsible; that our skyscrapers shut out nature’s light, destroying the space necessary to vision; that our brilliant lights are a menace to sight; that the American spirit is impatient of darkness, and that lack of time prevents the health exercise of walking, which keeps the body in good condition.”
Far from the city
Chicago futurist R.F. Kellum anticipated many changes by 2022, including a dramatic shift from city to suburb: • “Almost anybody able to pay the rent will own an automobile — cars will be that common.” • “There is no reason why people should be cooped up in the heart of a city when they can live out where the ozone whisks.” • “The suburbs will extend as far away as 100 miles from the center of the city.” • “Office buildings will take the place of residences and everybody will live out of town.”
The worm and the turtle
Wilbur Sutton, managing editor of the Muncie Evening Press in Indiana, lamented that “a multiplicity of laws” had led to paralyzing bureaucracy. “The American people, who long have boasted of their freedom, some day will have to begin tearing down some of their statutes and abolishing a few thousand commission boards, and systems, or the individual American in the year 2022 will be as spineless as an angleworm and will have about as much initiative and resourcefulness as the slow-going turtle,” he wrote in 1922.
Vive la France?
No one would be left to appreciate the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe. French scientists were concerned about the nation’s birth rate 100 years ago. In 1860, there had been 1 million births in the country. In 1922, the number had fallen to 450,000. As one observer noted: “At the rate of decline in number of children born in that country, in the year 2022 — 100 years hence — there will be nobody left in France, except as they drift in from other sections of Europe. The figures show, unerringly, that the present rate of decrease, maintained for 100 years, would reduce the birthrate to zero.”
Life in the country
The people of 2022 would reside in “airship-houses” and enjoy a life of leisure. An opinion piece titled “Big Laughs Coming” appeared in dozens of U.S. newspapers in 1922. The unknown author’s conclusion: “In the future, automatic machinery and inventions will free men from industrial slavery. Cheap and fast-flying airplanes will enable all to live in the country. Cities, at night, will be deserted groups of factory buildings. “We, voluntarily imprisoned in cramped apartments or small houses, will seem queer to our descendants. Daily we go to work in our prison cells, to pound typewriter keys, push a pen or perform monotonous operations with machinery — when we might all be free in the outdoors of farmland.
“Will the future consider us laughable, pathetic or crazy?”
The future newspaper Charles Taylor Jr., manager of the Boston Globe, had no worries about journalism 100 years hence. “We newspaper men should not get pessimistic about the future newspaper,” he told an interviewer in 1922. “It will be all right. The radio-phone is not going to take the place of it any more than the wireless has taken the place of the telephone. “The printed word, that one can read and digest, will always be popular. The newspaper is on the earth to stay. What it will be no one can say, but this you may swear by: It will be just what the public demands, and the publisher who is wise will meet the demand.”
Now, we encourage our Historical Society of Sarasota County readers to make a predication or two about life in 2122 in the comments. Dare you?