Giant human brain for research purposes? Nope, nope. Nuclear fuel for ships? Yes, yes! Aerodromes in the middle of big cities? Sadly no. Will man travel in space? Absolutely! Hidden away in a sub collection, these old cigarette cards from the Digital Collections of the New York Public Library were sometimes eerily prescient when it came to predicting future.
Between 1935 and 1938, Max Cigarettes released an illustrative set of 250 trading cards called “The Age of Power and Wonder,” artfully depicting the rapid developments in science and manufacturing of that time, and predicting future inventions and improvements. Each has a striking front image and an educational blurb on the back. The following nine cards depict scenes from the future: half became reality in less than a hundred years.
How London may be lighted
“Suspended high above a great city, a spiral of quartz representing a neon-mercury vapour lamp on the Bols principle, would enable night to be completely thrust back and darkness abolished. Around 30 metres of such lamp-tube would yield over 100,000,000 candle-power, sending a brilliant light into every corner of the city.”
The pump chamber
“It is possible that the development of the Lindbergh Perfusion Pump, in the pump chamber of which human or animal organs can be kept alive, may reach to the growing of giant organic brains from ordinary human brains, which will do the research work of the future.”
Television of the future
“Linked with other modern marvels, television will open new worlds to everybody. Men in bathysphere at sea-bed may transmit to the home set or to the cinema scenes taking place at the bottom of the ocean. The reporter of the future will be the television operator who broadcasts news to the world while it is taking place.”
“What is the basis of the claim that, if we could release atomic energy, a large ship could be driven across the Atlantic by a spoonful of fuel instead of many tons? It is this: The extreme force required to disintegrate the atom is a measure of the tensile strength with which its components are held together. If, therefore, the atom could be broken this vast strength could be released.”
Will man travel in space?
“It does not seem likely that man, as his power grows, will be content to confine his activities for ever to the earth. In ships, perhaps like this, and impelled by the power in the atom, he will voyage in space and perhaps plant himself upon other planets. The time may come when he is forced to do so, for the sun may cool.”
Our future servants?
“A time is coming when men will no longer need to employ men to do menial work. A great part of industrial work is already being done by machinery, and many experiments have been made in providing domestic mechanical servants. The form they will take has always been imagined rather like this picture, but in fact there is no real reason why they should be like this.”
The new ocean liner
“Development of flying does not mean the end of shipping, any more than that of motoring has killed the railways. Each stimulates the other, and this picture of a liner of the future is based quite definitely upon tendencies to be noted in modern ship designing. Such giants would cross the Atlantic in about 48 hours.”
Aerodrome of the future
“The aerodromes of the future will be placed in the heart of the great cities, where they are needed. Many suitable schemes have been considered, one of which is the provision of enormous platforms upon towers higher than any other building in the city. These towers would be approached by spiral roads and would be equipped as offices and hotels.”
Fog beaten on the road
“London is perhaps the worst sufferer from fog. Continuing to drive with no visibility means accident; the alternative is to wait for the fog to clear – or to use infra-red rays. The driver would have a screen upon which this television set would project all that the photo-electric eye sees before it because it can “see” with invisible infra-red rays which penetrate fog.”