Anyone for underwater croquet? Bizarre 19th Century postcards reveal how French artists thought we'd be living in 2000 (and they correctly predicted video phone calls)

By Anthony Bond

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Sometimes it can be hard to keep up with the pace of chance in modern day society.

But clearly things haven't changed as dramatically as a group of French artists from the 19th Century expected.

A set of postcards designed by the artists - produced between 1899 and 1910 - try to predict what life would be like in Paris in the year 2000.

Odd: A set of postcards designed by French artists - produced between 1899 and 1910 - tried to predict what life would be like in Paris in the year 2000. And bizarrely they thought we would be playing croquet underwater, pictured

Odd: A set of postcards designed by French artists - produced between 1899 and 1910 - tried to predict what life would be like in Paris in the year 2000. And bizarrely they thought we would be playing croquet underwater, pictured

Futuristic: In this image, a woman runs screaming from a burning building with her baby. But instead of fireman clambering up tall ladders to reach her, the brave officers are able to fly

Futuristic: In this image, a woman runs screaming from a burning building with her baby. But instead of fireman clambering up tall ladders to reach her, the brave officers are able to fly

Strange: This postcard shows a group of tourists taking an underwater tour on a bus - pulled by an enormous tame blue whale

Strange: This postcard shows a group of tourists taking an underwater tour on a bus - pulled by an enormous tame blue whale

And there are some fairly bizarre scenes, to say the least.

The year 2000 may have been and gone - but no-one has yet invented a flying fireman, or started playing croquet underwater.

 

Another of the quirky postcards shows a group of tourists taking an underwater tour on a bus - pulled by an enormous tame blue whale.

And while Parisians haven’t as yet replaced the fireplace in their homes with sticks of glowing radium, as one portrait shows, there are some portraits which aren’t too far off the mark.

Different: The postcards, distributed widely around France in cigarette boxes at the turn of the last century, were produced by Jean-Marc Cote, and various other artists. This shows an odd version of a helicopter

Different: The postcards, distributed widely around France in cigarette boxes at the turn of the last century, were produced by Jean-Marc Cote, and various other artists. This shows an odd version of a helicopter

Imaginative: The first series were produced for the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris - and were so popular that eventually 87 different cards were produced.

Imaginative: The first series were produced for the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris - and were so popular that eventually 87 different cards were produced. As well as predicting underwater croquet, the artists also thought flying tennis would be a game

Proved right: Some of the postcards are not so ridiculous - and the artists even appear to have invented an early form of modern technology. Pictured is a video phone

Proved right: Some of the postcards are not so ridiculous - and the artists even appear to have invented an early form of modern technology. Pictured is a video phone

The artists have predicted the invention of video phone calls - and of a ‘talking newspaper’ - just like radio news.

The postcards, distributed widely around France in cigarette boxes at the turn of the last century, were produced by Jean-Marc Cote, and various other artists.

The first series were produced for the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris - and were so popular that eventually 87 different cards were produced.

All adorned with the phrase ‘En L’an 2000’ - ‘In the year 2000’ - they range from the extraordinary to the revolutionary.

In one image, a woman runs screaming from a burning building with her baby.

But instead of fireman clambering up tall ladders to reach her, the brave officers all have bat-style wings attached to their backs - and are easily able to swoop up to the high window to save the day.

Interesting: Despite farming having shown many advances over the years, it is not quite as modern as the artists expected in this postcard

Interesting: Despite farming having shown many advances over the years, it is not quite as modern as the artists expected in this postcard

Colourful: All of the postcards are adorned with the phrase ¿En L¿an 2000¿ - ¿In the year 2000¿ . This shows how French artists envisaged an electric train

Colourful: All of the postcards are adorned with the phrase 'En L'an 2000' - 'In the year 2000' . This shows how French artists envisaged an electric train

Modern: The Parisians also believed that people would be using electric rollerskates

Modern: The Parisians also believed that people would be using electric rollerskates

Police officers and criminals also appear to be able to sprout wings - while the postman has to resort to delivering letters with the help of a flying bicycle.

And in another set of images, a woman is shown grooming herself - with the help of an array of automatic contraptions which powder her face and style her hair while she admires herself in the mirror - while a 21st Century barber uses a variety of levers and buttons to help machines cut his clients’ hair.

In another set of pictures, the artists seem taken by the idea that most modern French people will enjoy their leisure time under the sea - with one image showing a group of divers riding over-sized sea horses, and another suggesting that fishing will be done under the water - throwing a line to catch seagulls as they swoop overhead.

Stuck in the past: This postcard shows an air battle - no where near as advanced as today's aircraft used during war

Stuck in the past: This postcard shows an air battle - nowhere near as advanced as today's aircraft used during war

Far-fetched: A 21st Century barber uses a variety of levers and buttons to help machines cut his clients¿ hair

Far-fetched: A 21st Century barber uses a variety of levers and buttons to help machines cut his clients' hair

Looking ahead: This postcard shows how the artists thought a modern kitchen would look with food processed out of a machine

Looking ahead: This postcard shows how the artists thought a modern kitchen would look with food processed out of a machine

Despite the futuristic outlook, none of the artists appear to have believed that fashion would have changed - with all the characters in the drawings dressed in billowing floor-length dresses and smart 19th Century suits.

But some of the postcards are not so ridiculous - and the artists even appear to have invented an early form of modern technology.

In one scene, rows of school pupils sit wearing headphones while a stern-looking schoolmaster grinds up textbooks - which appear to be being pumped straight into the minds of his pupils - in a bizarre version of the internet.

Not accurate: Parisians haven¿t as yet replaced the fireplace in their homes with sticks of glowing radium, as this portrait shows

Not accurate: Parisians haven't as yet replaced the fireplace in their homes with sticks of glowing radium, as this portrait shows

Spot on: Despite many of the ideas being ridiculous, this audio news scene was well predicted

Spot on: Despite many of the ideas being ridiculous, this audio news scene was well predicted

Prediction: This bizarre postcard shows a curiosity horse

Prediction: This bizarre postcard shows a curiosity horse

And in another picture, the artists appear to have predicted video calls - as a man has a conversation with the image of a woman beamed onto a screen in front of him.

In another, a very happy maid watches on as an electric-powered broom sweeps and polished the floor for her, in a 19th Century vision of a vacuum cleaner.


 

The comments below have not been moderated.

Evidently it was thought back then that fashion in clothing would remain exactly the same. - Steve, Barton on Humbe ___________________ I noticed that, too - they were able to picture skype and helicopters but not women wearing pants.

Click to rate     Rating   16

they missed the obesity epidemic.

Click to rate     Rating   10

I like the guy falling on his face on the roller skates.

Click to rate     Rating   7

Red Max, Dead right ! It shows up well on google earth, gigantic crop area's all ploughed / harvested in absolutely straight, symmetrical lines. I used to wonder how this was possible 'till it dawned on me.

Click to rate     Rating   1

I remember reading in 1950s comics that by the 1970s, nuclear power generating our electricity will be so cheap, it would not be worth metering. Also, they said that all you needed was one re-fuelling to run your atomic car for several years. A film that really blows my mind is the 1936 film based on the H.G. Wells story, Things to Come. It's fairly accurate up until 1940, then it just goes plain stupid. According to the film, we are all now living underground wearing silver lurex, cat suits with tin helmets on our heads. Another gem are the predictions of Nostradamas. I had a couple of books in the 1970s which explained all our history by "interpreting" his mumblings. The books also told us what to expect for the future by using the same interpretations. The result of the predictions up to and including this year? Not even 1% accurate.

Click to rate     Rating   4

Brilliant - does anyone remember the Blue Peter competition for the year 2000. Most picutres were peopel wearing silver jumpsuits, eating pills and drivinf lfying cars.

Click to rate     Rating   18

Evidently it was thought back then that fashion in clothing would remain exactly the same.

Click to rate     Rating   62

Farming has indeed surpassed that on the postcard. GPS controlled tractors and harvesters are already working in on farms in the UK without the need for an overseer operating levers at the side of the field or on the machines themselves.

Click to rate     Rating   40

i think we have failed to meet some of their expectations...;P

Click to rate     Rating   69

well..the machines doing haircuts..comparison....how about robots doing operations...?.... the electric train..pointed front.....chinese man in the picture...bullet trains..?.. fireplace,,,electric fires..?

Click to rate     Rating   37

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