What 19th Century French Artists Thought The Year 2000 Would Look Like

Published April 12, 2017
Updated March 5, 2018

If you were a French dandy living at the cusp of the 20th century, the future looked bright. How bright? Read on to find out.

Audio Journal
A couple "listens" to the newspaper.Wikimedia

Auto Rollers
The French envisioned that wheeled shoes could make walking faster.Wikimedia

Battle Cars
Cars "battle" one another.Wikimedia

Correspondence Cinema
A vision of a projection screen attached to a phonograph.Wikimedia

Dictant Courier
A machine transcribes words and sends them out via courier.Wikimedia

Little Robbers
Children flying. Wikimedia

Madame Toilette
A machine does a woman's gussying up.Wikimedia

Whale Bus
A whale transports people underwater.Wikimedia

Water Croquet
Men and women play croquet underwater.Wikimedia

Seahorse Divers
People ride seahorses.Wikimedia

Future School
People absorb information via electrical currents. Wikimedia

Rolling House
Mobile homes.Wikimedia

French Future Air Battle
A massive zeppelin comes to the aid of military vessels.Wikimedia

Robot Orchestra
Musical instruments become automated.Wikimedia

French Future Breeding
Farming also becomes automated.Wikimedia

French Future Fishing
Men and women spend increasing amounts of time underwater.Wikimedia

Air Postman
Mail services utilize the skies to deliver messages. Wikimedia

Machines come to the aid of hairdressers.Wikimedia

French Future Cooking
Machines aid chefs.Wikimedia

Air Police
Police apprehend criminals in the skies. Wikimedia

French Future Air Cup
Another flying device.Wikimedia

Air Cab
The French projected that technological innovation would allow men and women to make use of the sky when traveling.Wikimedia

The ways we envision the future are contingent upon our present contexts. And in late 19th century France, an industrial boom had artists anticipating, well, playing croquet underwater.

At the cusp of the 20th century, Jean-Marc Côté and a few other visionary French artists began to speculate as to the coming century might have in store for them and their country. Côté and company mapped these speculations out in a series of drawings, which they would display at the World Exhibition in Paris.

Subsequent use as postcards and cigarette and cigar box inserts would increase the drawings' shelf life, though the prints were never commercially distributed. In fact, Isaac Asimov purchased the only known set of postcards for use in his nonfiction work Futuredays: A Nineteenth Century Vision of the Year 2000.

For more on French history and lifestyle, see how France envisions the work week and these photos of the French Resistance in action.

Erin Kelly
An All That's Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she's designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.