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Staff Reporter 

Century-old predictions can turn out eerily accurate

Write to the Point


Flying cars, automated kitchens, plastics and hoverboards. Visions of the future sometimes turn out different from what people predicted decades ago. While they can be accurate every now and then, we can all be thankful we’re not using laserdiscs for movies nor are we driving in the folding automobile from 1939.

Last week an article by John Elfreth Watkins, Jr., published in The Ladies’ Home Journal around 1900, went viral showcasing some of the predictions people had for life in the year 2001. While some are a bit farfetched, a good portion of those are eerily accurate without any adjustments.

For instance, cellphones, or “wireless telephones” as the article calls them, were dead on. Predictions that calls could be made around the world instantaneously were correct. Keep in mind during that time, switchboard operators were still being used to place calls on specific lines.

To think that no one would need a “hello girl,” as they were called, would have been quite the shock, I bet.

One of the other predictions included simple observations such as “the American will be taller by from one to two inches.” Sure enough, on average Americans are 5-foot-10-inches tall, up by an inch in the 1900s. The biggest change here came in lifespan, as according to the article, “He will live 50 years instead of 35 as at present – for he will reside in the suburbs.” Rather than living to the ripe age of 50, Americans are now living well into their 70s.

Another of the eerily accurate predictions was that home temperatures would be regulated by hot and cold air. While the article interviews said the air would flow from spigots throughout the house, akin to using hot or cold water in a sink, we do have machines that heat and cool our homes. Air conditioning, anyone? Although homes still have chimneys, most Americans are no longer waking up early in the morning to build a fire in the furnace.

The article also correctly saw advances in food growing techniques, stating that oranges would grow in Philadelphia. Today, we’re able to ship food across the world right to our supermarkets. Just look at the tags on apples, peppers and other fresh produce the next time you’re at the store.

Other predictions, however, like making store purchases by tube and free college education aren’t likely to happen.

One final statement in the article included the idea that every person will walk 10 miles during the day, with gymnastics starting in nursery. Those who couldn’t walk a 10 mile stretch would be regarded as “weaklings.”

Just keep that in mind as you’re heading down the Bloomsday course this weekend.


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