A 2009 Christmas, as predicted 100 years agoChristmas a hundred years from now will be the same old Christmas, no doubt, but it will be celebrated under such vastly different conditions that if you should go to sleep now and wake up a century later you would think you were in a different world.
Editor's note: The following article appeared in the December 23, 1909 issue of the Alexandria Citizen newspaper. The article predicted what Christmas - and life - would be like in 100 years, in 2009.
Christmas a hundred years from now will be the same old Christmas, no doubt, but it will be celebrated under such vastly different conditions that if you should go to sleep now and wake up a century later you would think you were in a different world.
The Christmas spirit will be the same. But whether it is a hundred years from now or a thousand we may be sure that when the Christmas season comes the world will be full of the Christmas spirit.
Little children and grown men and women still be made happy by giving and receiving, grudges and grouches will be forgotten, enemies forgiven and good will will prevail. Nothing can kill that.
The golden motto: “Peace on earth, good will to men” will be just as sacred and as new to the hearts of men as it was nineteen hundred years ago. Everybody will give everybody else a present – but the presents will be different.
Little Johnny will not covet a railroad train. Real cars on a real track, pulled by a real locomotive that makes smoke will not seem a wonderful thing to him, as it does to the little Johnny of today. The lad of the next century will want a model of the latest airship in his Christmas stocking. He will expect a working model, too – one that will sail through the flat like a live bird, and perhaps carry his own weight.
Within the last hundred years steam and electricity have been developed and it is entirely reasonable to imagine that within the coming century men will travel through the air as commonly as they now travel over the land.
The automobile, the trolley car, the railroad train, and the horse as a draft animal – all will be gone. Men will use the earth as the birds do, for a resting place for their homes and the principal source of food supply; but when they want to move from one place to another, they will mount into the ether, even as the birds do, and flay swiftly and safely to their destination.
It is probable that there will not be a wheeled vehicle of any kind on the streets of a great city on Christmas day, in the year 2009. Our tunnel system will have developed until the vast subterranean network of bores, chutes and pneumatic tubes will carry on the heavy traffic of the city without noise or confusion.
The streets will be given up to pedestrians – to those who walk for pleasure or wish to travel short distances. The sidewalk as it is now will be no more, but the entire width of the street will be given up to foot passengers. There will be neither car tracks nor moving vehicles to annoy.
The suburbanite who does not fly to work in 2009 will be shot through a pneumatic tube, traveling the five, ten or fifty miles of distance in a space of time that may be only a few seconds and certainly cannot be more than a few minutes.
It may be that few people will walk anywhere in the year 2009. When man learns to fly he will scorn walking as too slow a means of progress. Perhaps our great-great-grandchildren, who no doubt will live in immense apartment buildings towering a half mile from the ground, may go for weeks at a time without setting foot to the earth.
With the passing of the Christmas sleigh there will be no longer any need for reindeers for Santa Claus. He, too, will travel by airship, and while the old Santa Claus will be a myth, the new Santa Claus will be as real as the bewhiskered and befurred boys who now entertain the children in the department stores.
It is not hard to imagine that the big stores will develop the Santa Claus idea to the point that Christmas purchases will be delivered on Christmas eve by an airship driver made up to impersonate Santa Claus.
A hundred years from now, if you want to avoid the rush and do your Christmas shopping in your own apartments, the scientists probably will have provided for you a combination of telescope and moving pictures machine by means of which you can connect your room with the toy department and see the display by wire – or perhaps by wireless – and at the same time you get prices and leave your order with the clerk by telephone.
But perhaps the woman of 2009 will enjoy the mad rush of the shops as much as she does today during the holiday season, and then she will go to the big store and order her toys and presents. The store could deliver them through the pneumatic package tubes, which will go to all parts of the city, but it will be more poetic to have them delivered by Santa Claus.
Christmas eve a score or a hundred Santa clauses will set out from the various shops with their airships laden with Christmas gifts to be delivered at the various addresses.
It will no longer be necessary to “deliver all goods in the rear” of the big apartment building, but whether you live on the twentieth or two hundred and twentieth story of the big house you will have your own private airship landing, and while the family is gathered at the door to receive Santa Clause the airship will settle on the landing and the cheerful “Merry Christmas” of the aeronaut will greet you as he hands in the packages.
The Christmas tree of a hundred years from now will be an electrical marvel. Festoons and wreaths of rainbow colored lights and “chasers” will scintillate from its green branches. But the presents that hang on it will be even more wonderful.
There will be dolls as large as the little girls who will receive them. There will be dolls that can walk and with the improved phonographic arrangements of another century there will be dolls that can talk and others that can sing beautiful songs. Some of them, no doubt, will be able to dance gracefully and to do tricks that would seem miraculous if performed by an automation today.
The mechanical toys of 2009 will be marvels of perfection. The most imaginative man cannot possibly conceive of the new things that will be invented in the way of machinery, but it is safe to assume that the wireless transmission of power will be perfected.
Wheels will spin without any visible motive power. Power may be taken from the sun’s rays or wireless power stations may be operated by the waves, the waterfalls, or even the winds. Before the coal supply is exhausted the need for coal, either for warmth or power, will have passed away.
And whatever triumphs men make in the industrial world they impart to their games and recreation. So it is certain that the Teddy bear and the toy dog of the coming century will be mechanical marvels.
The “Rover” dog that the little boy gets will be life size. He will prance about on his four furry legs and lie down and roll over at the bidding of his master.
Perhaps the most wonderful feature of all in our Christmas in 2009 will be the changed methods in our daily life. The housekeeping arrangements of that time would seem incomprehensible to the woman of today if she could picture them in her mind.
The lack of comforts and the inconvenience of life in a cottage, it is possible, will drive most of the city dwellers into the apartment buildings, which will grow bigger and taller as the years pass until they will be literally “skyscrapers” within a century.
In one of those big buildings, while the machinery will be out of sight, domestic affairs will be so mechanical, even automatic, that you can get almost anything the family needs simply by turning on a switch or pressing a button.
The flat dweller of that distant day will not be bothered with servants or the servant problem. By pressing a button the Christmas dinner will come up noiselessly from the kitchen on the mechanical waiter or perhaps in a pneumatic tube.
After your Christmas dinner is over the dishes will disappear as silently and swiftly as you could wish. Some sort of mechanical dish washer in the kitchen will take care of them – or what is more likely, they will be made of a cheap composition and will be destroyed by burning after they are used once.
The antiseptic precautions of the modern surgeon will be common to the kitchens of the next century and hygiene will be a real science.
When you have eaten your Christmas dinner, if you want to go out for the evening you can press a button and an aerocab will come to the landing at your door. Or, if you prefer it, you may drop down the pneumatic elevator to some point 50 or 100 feet below the surface of the earth and be whirled through the pneumatic subway at a dizzy rate of speed to your destination.
Only the speed will not make you dizzy. You will not be able to feel it. You may sit in your cushioned car, well lighted and warmed and ventilated by some process yet to be discovered, and before you realize it the miles will speed away and you step out to the opera or the play.
If you prefer to remain at your apartments the telautoscope attached to your telephone may be connected to any theater you desire, and you can sit in your easy chair and smoke while you see the play projected on the wall like the most perfect moving picture.
All the stage settings will be there to make the play seem real, and the improved telephone will bring every shade and subtle inflection of the actor’s voice to your ear.
It seems certain that this telautoscope arrangement – the exact word to describe it will be coined after the process is discovered – will be one of the triumphs of the coming century. It will enable you to see the person you are talking to over a telephone.
The nigh of the coming airship probably will be so rapid that the business man and even the salaried worker, if he loves the country, can have a villa or a cottage at a great distance from the city and go to work in his own airship at slight cost.
On Christmas day in the good century to come this flight in the air will be the means of many family reunions that are impossible now. A few hours will take one to the most distant parts of the country, and the practical cessation of business during the holiday week will leave all free to gather with loved ones and pay deferred visits.