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French Artists' 1899 Vision of Life in the Year 2000

 Atomic physicist Niels Bohr is famously quoted as saying, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” Yet despite years of inaccuracies, magazines persist in publishing think pieces on where we might be in the coming decades or centuries. It provides us with a sense of hope, even though inventions like personal jetpacks and moon colonies are long overdue.

At school in 2000

At cinema in the year 2000

However, it's Isaac Asimov who seems to possess the only set of postcards titled En L’An 2000, a collection of around 87 artist cards that were originally distributed as inserts in cigar boxes in 1899, just in time for the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris. Translated as “France in the 21st Century,” these cards feature interpretations by Jean-Marc Côté and other illustrators of how we might be living... well, 23 years ago.

Life in the year 2000

Life in the year 2000

The history behind the production of these cards is quite convoluted, with the original commissioning company going out of business before distributing them. Whether this company was a toy manufacturer or a cigarette company remains unclear. Furthermore, it's uncertain whether the ideas were provided to the artists or if they came up with them independently.

Farmer in 2000

Croquet party in 2000

Upon examining these prints, now hosted at The Public Domain Review, one immediately notices the absence of space travel, despite Jules Verne's publication of From the Earth to the Moon in 1865 (which later influenced Georges Méliès' A Voyage to the Moon in 1902). However, the artists did envision various underwater scenarios, such as a whale-drawn bus, a croquet party at the bottom of the ocean, and large fish being raced like thoroughbred horses.

Bus in 2000

mail delivery

Helicopter

Interestingly, some of the depicted inventions did come true. For instance, the “Advance Sentinel in a Helicopter” concept has been a reality for decades, documenting traffic and car chases, and feeding the footage into our televisions. Additionally, much of farm work is now automated, and what was once known as “Electric Scrubbing” is now recognized as a Roomba.

scrubbing

haircut in the future

beauty salon

Construction

For a detailed examination of each future vision depicted on these cards, one may refer to Isaac Asimov’s 1986 publication, Futuredays: A Nineteenth Century Vision of the Year 2000, available on Amazon. Alternatively, a gallery of images can be viewed on The Public Domain Review website.

Would you like a glimpse into the future? Then these books may interest you.


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