A to Z

This section explores an A-Z of the themes that reoccur throughout the images that we gathered for this project. 

Y is for Youth

Youth and childhood figure less prominently in nineteenth-century images of the future than their adult counterparts. The children of the middle classes were often portrayed with their parents, more or less as appendages, seen but not heard. Children themselves seemed unremarkable to some. For instance, Frederick Opper of the New York Journal and Advertiser anticipated in 1899 that the world’s population would continue to grow over the ‘next one hundred years’, with the Earth ‘increasing his family right along, without any let-up’. Other artists saw in children a vehicle for the wonderment of technological changes. A ‘twentieth century boy’ might take to the skies in a steam-powered glider, perhaps using his wings to reach an eagle’s nest and steal her eggs. More studious children in the year 2000 could imbibe their school lessons more efficiently, thanks to their teacher’s adoption of the latest technology, the ‘school radio’. In this depiction of the classroom, artist Jean-Marc Côté may have been parodying the standardisation and rationalisation of the Victorian school. In darker depictions of the future, children might facilitate a connection between the reader and future generations. In the twenty-fifth century of French astronomer and author Nicolas Camille Flammarion’s 1894 Omega: The Last Days of the World, even children could practice ‘transcendental magnetism’ to communicate with the planets Mars and Venus. Weary of war by the year 3000, the mothers of Europe would form a league to teach their children about the horrors of war, and in their commitment to disarmament and peace, young girls would refuse to marry ‘a man who had borne arms’. These girls were the embodiment of future peace, amity and innocence.

Jean-Marc Côté, ‘En L’An 2000: La radio a l’école’, c.1899, Wikimedia.