Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Pioneers' Centennial (1909)

Did you raise a toast to William Marconi last night? How about Robert Fulton? Not even the Wright brothers? Well, this piece in the September 26, 1909 New York Times thought you would be doing just that in twenty-oh-nine.

This fictionalized future editorial explores everything from the "aerovessels" we were to be flying to the men we would naturally still admire and adore. Excerpts from the piece appear below. You can read the entire piece here. (Marconi portrait courtesy of the Library of Congress, circa 1903)

On men that will be highly regarded in 2009:
With this year of our city, 2009, epochmaking, eramarking celebrations have come and gone - centennial exercises in honor of Henry Hudson, Robert Fulton, the Wright brothers, William Marconi, and other pioneers of last century's strides in science, industrial and otherwise.

It is the second time in our city's history that two weeks of her varied life have been given over as a mighty tribute to those men who marked the beginnings of great inventions, improvements, discoveries, and of applications which have for their result the amazing facilities for live and living afforded in this year of grace 2009.

The celebrations just ended not only mark the close of another great chapter in the history of New York; they have been an episode in the story of the universe.

On the flying machines and submarines of 2009:
In the celebration pictures we find the aerovessel, almost absent from the celebrations of 1909, crowding in upon the vision as cabs did around the old-fashioned theatre one hundred years ago. We find the aerovessel in its many forms - from the single-seated skimmer to the vast aerocruisers, of which the Martian type is perhaps the finest example - equivalent to the Dreadnaught of the ante-pax days. Also, we perceive along the sea coast and on the Hudson River a type of vessel which was not foreshadowed even at the time of the first centennial celebrations - the submarine and flying skimmer, in playfully sobriqued the "susky-marine." Of course, the gradual elimination of earth and ocean surface travel made it inevitable that the submarine aerovessel should have a monopoly of the earth and the waters under the earth. It is hardly necessary to recall the case of the last of the old steel warships, the Amerigo, which foundered in 1947 and all souls after having been split by the Flying Diver (Jupiter: 2d class: 10 v. c.) as the latter shot from the ocean bed to the air leap.

Previously on Paleo-Future:
Collier's Illustrated Future of 2001 (1901)
The Predictions of a 14 Year Old (Milwaukee Excelsior, 1901)
A Hundred Years From Now. (New York Times, 1909)


Anonymous said...

We don't need to celebrate Marconi or Fulton or Wrights at a special day. The legendary inventors of a century past will always be in our memories.

(Though I have to say had no idea who Fulton was. That's what I get for not travelling by sea that often!)

Oh well, here's to Marconi, without whom we all would have have to mess with tons of annoying easily knotting wires. =)

Katella Gate said...

Given the state of US education, I doubt anybody under the age of 30 could tell you who most of these Victorians were

As for toasting them in gratitude for their industry and perseverance, well, that seems a little Victorian too.

Anonymous said...

I have no idea who William Marconi was.

Gwilym Marconi, on the other hand, was a great man. He gave us the wireless, don't you know!

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Anonymous said...

Why would we have celebrated the Wright centennial in 2009? That was in 2003.

Anonymous said...

Before you give Marconi all the glory read this article first
I hope this clears things up a bit.

Paul said...

I found the reference to "skimmers" on the Hudson river amusing given recent events there...

Paul said...

And of course Marconi's first name was "Guglielmo"