A to Z (Z)

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

Z is for Zoo

The futures of animals and human’s relationship with them are a less obvious theme in nineteenth-century images of the future. One common suggestion – usually satirical –  is that animals and humans might adapt (or be made to adapt) similarly to humans. In W. K. Haselden’s 1905 tongue-in-cheek cartoon ‘The Future of the Race’ it is not just humans but a dog that has a thick glasses and a trumpet-shaped mouth to deal with the audio-visual pollution of urban life. In Punch’s 1878 ‘Museum of Modern Antiques’, a vision of the future collections of past technologies, the curator is followed by his dog, who is stood upright on the same spring-loaded stilts warn by his master. 

In one image of the ‘Cow of the Future’, published in a June 1895 issue of The Australasian, we even find a bespectacled cow. Replete with signs confirming its freedom from disease, antiseptic leg-coverings, and covered in a protective sheet, the cow in question pointed the way towards future veterinary and medical innovations that would culminate in the twentieth-century introduction of antibiotics into livestock farming. This was not the only image that pre-figured later intensive farming methods. The series of around 87 cards produced by Jean-Marc Côté and other French artists to mark the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris imagined a year 2,000 which was rather less positive for non-humans. In one image a woman is show engaged in ‘Intensive breeding’, feeding eggs into a machine only for chicks to pop straight out of a slide at the other end.

The other images in the same set prefigure a less equal relationship between human and non-human inhabitants of the earth as humans continued to dominate sea, air, and land. Under the sea whales would be yoked to carriages as underwater buses and giant seahorses would serve as individual transport. Bird- and bat-like wings would allow people fly through the air and to rob from the nests of birds of prey. New forms of transport would help to subjugate the animal world to human purposes. Either that, or they would help to turn the rest of the world into a kind of animal and anthropological zoo for European tourists. In the set of ‘Hundred Years Hence’ cards from 1900, one image portrays ‘summer excursions to the North pole’. Indigenous people are portrayed, alongside dogs, seals, and polar bears, looking up in wonder as Europeans in canal-boats-cum-zeppelins fly overhead.

‘Intensive Breeding’, cigarette card, (c.1899-1910), France.