1901 Predictions About the Year 2001



I publish a monthly "Toy and Play Industry Futurist Letter". I write it because I believe that forseeing the future is essential for better a understanding of what kinds of toys, marketing and packaging will be popular in three to five years.

I was, however, astonished to read this series of predictions for the year 2001 as presented in a 1901 Lady's Home Journal article written by John Elfreth Watkins Jr. Mr. Watkins did not claim that these were his forecasts. Rather he went to the "the wisest and most careful men in our greatest institutions of science and learning". He does not tell us who these men were but whoever they were some of them were pretty right on the money.

This is a blog that is about play so let's start with his prediction about toys: "Gymnastics will begin in the nursery, where toys and games will be designed to strengthen the muscles." Is this an accurate prediction? I think the answer is "kind of".

Here are some other predictions:

  • Ready-cooked meals will be bought from establishments similar to our bakeries of today. That "wise and careful man" sure nailed that one.
  • The U.S. population will be between 350 and 500 million. The 1901 population was 78 million and today its 324 million. That's a pretty good prediction.
  • Americans will be one or two inches taller. The person making this prediction was acutally too conservative as Americans are four inches taller than they were in 1901.
  • Trains will run at 150 miles per hour. Acela runs at a top speed of 150 miles per hour but the speed record in 1901 was 101 miles per hour so that was not that big a leap.
  • Automobiles will be cheaper than horses. The average cost of a horse in 1901 was $70. $70 in 2016 money is $1,892.31 so the prediction was, unfortunately for all of us, wrong.
  • "Photographs will be telegraphed from any distance. If there be a battle in China a hundred years hence snapshots of its most striking events will be published in the newspapers an hour later." Its not sent by telegraph and its faster than an hour but its certainly captures how news moves in today's world.

Most of the predictions were reasonable based upon what was known at the time.  Some are a bit absurd. I love this one: "Strawberries as large as apples will be eaten by our great great grandchildren for their Christmas dinners a hundred years hence. Raspberries and blackberries will be as large. One will suffice for the fruit course of each person. Strawberries and cranberries will be grown upon tall bushes. Cranberries, gooseberries and currants will be as large as oranges."

All in all, I think Mr. Watkins' "wisest and most careful men" did a pretty good job. Click here and read the entire list. What do you think of his predictions.


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