In 1899, a group of French illustrators led by Jean-Marc Côté was tasked with imagining what France would look like in the year 2000. Their ideas weren’t always on the money but many have been realized albeit not exactly according to the original drawings.
Known as France in the Year 2000 (sometimes as En L’An 2000 – In the Year 2000), these futuristic pictures were released in four installments–in 1899, 1900, 1901, and 1910–and took the form of cigarette/cigar box inserts and, later, postcards.
As happens with so many looks forward, some few predictions came true, many fell comically flat, and a huge number stopped far short of what the future would hold, even just a few years down the road.
The famous futurist author Isaac Asimov came across these cards, miraculously preserved, around 1985. He published them as a book titled Futuredays: A Nineteenth Century Vision of the Year 2000.
Asimov comments on fifty cards from that set, admiring whatever was accurate, gently noting where imagination came up short of reality, and respectfully noting how chancy the prediction business can be.
One point pervading the set was that, however much the technology might advance in a hundred years, the artist felt that clothing styles had reached perfection in 1900 and that no change of materials or cultural norms would ever change women’s long skirts, elaborate bodices, and complex hairstyles – not even in underwater sports.
In a way, the predictions are limited: there’s no space travel, no personal computer, and much of the machinery functions by levers, pulleys, and propellers — the common mechanical features of the early 1900s.
Fashion and gender roles also remain rigidly entrenched in 20th-century norms. However, the collection is an insightful visual time capsule into the early 20th-century futuristic imagination.
(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons).