A 21-year-old reporter and writer from Massachusetts wrote this article in 1906, speculating about what the world may well be like in 2006 — some of which has actually come true. But would he have guessed what his own future held? Joseph Christopher O’Mahoney was named First Assistant Postmaster General in 1933, and then served as a Democratic United States Senator from Wyoming from January 1934 to January 1953.
by Joseph C O’Mahoney
One hundred years hence
When at the close of the nineteenth century the philosophers and scientists of the world looked back upon the work which had been accomplished for the advancement of civilization during that period, they called it with truth the most wonderful century in the history of the globe. Greater progress than ever before was achieved during those one hundred years in every line of human endeavor, in the development of industry, the extension of education, and the widespread application of humanitarian ideals to government.
But already the first six years of the present century have opened up a vista of possibilities which, if realized, will dwarf the record of the nineteenth. The discovery of radium alone has shattered the most cherished theories of chemistry and physics, and gives promise of still greater discoveries in the future which will be of inestimable influence on humanity.
The wildest dreamers of a century ago never conceived of any thing so astounding as wireless telegraphy, now carried through to practical perfection. Just as the introduction of steel construction worked a revolution in the building industry twenty years ago, so today is the revolution of concrete. The cheapness and durability of this material is daily bringing it into greater demand.
None of the disasters to which ordinary buildings succumb, neither fire nor earthquake, has any very injurious effect on it, and time only makes it stronger. Reinforced with slender steel bars, it is being used throughout the country. Every floor in such a structure offers a foundation almost as stable as the rocky crust of the earth itself. Thus the forty story skyscrapers now planned in New York will have become one hundred years hence lofty pinnacles penetrating as far again into the atmosphere.
The most beneficial influence of concrete, however, will not be in what it will do for the corporations which own the skyscrapers, but rather in what it will do for the poor. Suburban districts will become clustered with eight and ten room cottages for the poor, as substantial and comfortable as the modern villa. Enormously increased transportation facilities will render possible and probable the removal to the country of the entire population which now inhabits the tenement districts.
New York a honeycomb
The tunnels contemplated in New York at the present time will, when completed, form a vast underground network centering about the City Hall. Future tunnels will honeycomb the island, so that it will be possible to to any portion of the city without once coming into the open air.
The speed with which the cars will run, equaling and even surpassing the rate already attained on the experimental roads in Europe — four hundred and fifty miles in two hundred and ten minutes — will allow the people whose business carries them daily to the city to live without inconvenience or loss of time fifty or one hundred miles from the metropolis. [CA Editor’s note: This is about 129 MPH.]
The completion of this underground system will bring about another transformation. The most elementary of commercial axioms is that business follows the traffic; so that when the population of the city will travel almost exclusively underground, all the retail merchants will follow the lead of some institutions in New York and establish entrances to their buildings directly from the subways.
Stores of every imaginable kind will line these passages; and on Monday mornings one hundred years hence, the housewife will leave her home in the country one hundred miles away, travel to the city in an hour, finish her bargain hunting, take lunch, and return without once coming to the surface from the time she leaves her home until she gets back.
Not only will these tunnels be used for passenger transportation, but many of them, like those in Chicago, will be devoted exclusively to freight. Pneumatic tubes, like those which carry the mails from the post office to the railroad stations, will be installed everywhere for the transportation of merchandise.
This complicated system will practically do away with all surface traffic, and as a result, the city beautiful will reach its full development. Trucking having been banished, all the streets will be transformed into parkways, drives, and boulevards, and it will be impossible to find a spot offensive to the eye or to the nose within the boundaries of the future city.
Aerial navigation will have become an accomplished fact. All distant traveling will be carried on in dirigible balloons or aeroplanes, following definite routes across continent and ocean as a railroad trains and steamships today. On the outskirts of the cities will rise lofty towers for the despatching and reception of the air ships. Every such building will be equipped with swift elevators, moving stairways, and platforms similar to already in use, but of an infinitely improved pattern. In addition, these stations will be directly connected with all the tunnels and subways.