People cannot help but make predictions about the future. Most of these attempts usually belong more in the realms of science fiction than reality, but this is not always the case.
In 1900, one gentleman named John Elfreth Watkins wrote a piece that took up the rather innocuous looking page 8 of the Ladies’ Home Journal, an American women’s magazine.
Little would most of the world know that its very future was laid out right here. Or at least some of it. As far as the future and predictions go, not many people would think to find what lies ahead for humanity in a monthly magazine.
Digital color photography
Okay, suggesting that color photography was on the way would not have taken a tremendous amount of insight, but to focus on its digitalization is pretty impressive.
“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…. PHOTOGRAPHS WILL REPRODUCE ALL OF NATURE’S COLORS.”John Elfreth Watkins
Watkins was a writer for the Saturday Evening Post in Minneapolis, so it is unclear where exactly he garnered all of his technological insights from. Still, he was at it again in regard to the future and his eventual prediction of mobile phones.
To put this into context, the first call by Alexander Bell from one coast to the other was not made for another 15 years after Watkins was writing here:
“WIRELESS TELEPHONE AND TELEGRAPH CIRCUITS WILL SPAN THE WORLD. A HUSBAND IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ATLANTIC WILL BE ABLE TO CONVERSE WITH HIS WIFE SITTING IN HER BOUDOIR IN CHICAGO. WE WILL BE ABLE TO TELEPHONE TO CHINA QUITE AS READILY AS WE NOW TALK FROM NEW YORK TO BROOKLYN.”John Elfreth Watkins
Mr. Watkins was not only a technology savant, but he was also quite sure that our fruit would come in much bigger sizes in the future than it did then. This was one peculiar prediction about the future.
“STRAWBERRIES AS LARGE AS APPLES WILL BE EATEN BY OUR GREAT-GREAT-GRANDCHILDREN.”John Elfreth Watkins
Fair enough, this one was a little bit of an exaggeration. Still, many fruits are indeed available in larger varieties than they were over 100 years ago.
A slow in population growth
Again, John was not exactly right here. There are currently around 328 million people in the USA. Still, this like many other future predictions of his was pretty accurate compared to the population growth of the 100 years before this prediction.
“THERE WILL PROBABLY BE FROM 350,000,000 TO 500,000,000 PEOPLE IN AMERICA [THE US].”John Elfreth Watkins
If the population had grown at the same rate as it did between 1800 and 1900, the number of people in American would have passed 1 billion by 2000.
On top of these predictions, Mr. Watkins also foresaw the arrival of tanks to the battlefield, television, high-speed rail, and pre-prepared meals.
John Elrefth Watkins may lay claim to being the Nostradums of Mineappplois, but he got a few things wrong.
He rather bizarrely claimed that the letters C, X, and Q would be abandoned and put out of use.
He rather optimistically guessed that everybody would walk 10 kilometers each day.
And he was sure that mosquitoes, house flies, and bugs would all have been eradicated.
Mr. Watkins was clearly not infallible, but the more than 100-year-old predictions that he did get right are still a pretty impressive feat.