Mental Floss

What French People in 1900 Thought Life Would Be Like in 2000

Hannah Keyser
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons / Wikimedia Commons

These images, which were drawn by Jean-Marc Côté and other French artists, originally appeared on paper cards enclosed in cigarette/cigar boxes and, later, as postcards. They were first produced in 1899 for the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris, with additional cards being released in 1900, 1901 and 1910. There are 87 known scenes, but here are some of the more striking. In addition to a range of tedious activities going automatic, the biggest theme seems to be an anticipation that we will tire of earthly pursuits and take to the sea and sky.

1. At School

Unfortunately for modern students, the prediction of a school where learning is simply wired into one's brain never came to be. Fortunately, this means they've avoided having to wear headpieces that look like Princess Leia wigs.

2. The New-Fangled Barber

The French anticipated we'd have a lot of trust in our modern machines, even when it comes to using sharp objects awfully close to the jugular.

3. Aero-Cab Station

Although the cars would become airborne, the fashions, apparently, would stay pretty much stuck in the late 19th century.

4. Aerial Firemen

I think it was Icarus who had something to say on the matter of flying close to an open flame.

5. In Pursuit of a Smuggler

And if the firemen get wings, of course the police do as well. And here's another one, where police attempt to apprehend airborne criminals with a nightstick.

6. An Aerial Battle

They were right in thinking warfare would also go skyward; however, a battleship based on a balloon would be a major liability these days.

7. A Torpedo Plane

They were only slightly ahead of their time in anticipating that aerial attacks would allow for bombardment.

8. Hunting by Air

We really haven't made as much progress on the individual-flying-apparatus front as was anticipated.

8. The Little Eagle-Nest Robbers

Even children were expected to make recreational use of wings. But the French of the early 1900s failed to predict that parents would become more protective and probably frown on activities like antagonizing an oversized bird.

9. Correspondence Cinema

The actual mechanisms look a little more modern, but this one is pretty spot-on as far as the sentiment of audio-visual communication.

10. Air Ship

We ended up going a different route when it came to air travel, but boats suspended with giant balloons are certainly charming.

11. Madame at Her Toilette

Mornings are rough. I could see a market for this.

12. A Very Busy Farmer

The interesting thing to note here is that the mechanical devices are all electric, and thus attached to the power lines.

13. Electric Scrubbing

But still dressing like a classic French maid.

14. Auto Rollers

Which, judging by the poor fellow in the blue sweater, are trickier than they look.

15. A Whale-Bus

The postcards anticipated we'd spend a lot more time submerged in the ocean than we actually do these days. And that we'd have domesticated whales.

16. A Race in the Pacific

But where would you be going in your whale-bus? To watch the underwater eel (right?) races, of course!

17. A Croquet Party

Or perhaps to play a game of underwater croquet, which of course would remain empirically popular a century later.

18. Divers on Horseback

Giant seahorseback, that is! Vintage swords will be making a comeback any day now, I'm sure.

19. Fishing For Seagulls

In this imagined future, we spend so much time underwater even fishing gets reversed.

20. A Monster of the Abyss

But it's not all fun and games in the year 2000—apparently there will be a rise in sea monster attacks.

All photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

9.32.paper cards enclosed in cigarette/cigar boxes and, later, as postcards - See more at:

paper cards enclosed in cigarette/cigar boxes and, later, as postcards - See more at: