New York 2001, As Seen in 1900

We all know that, as far as man is concerned, the face of the world has undergone more change during the 19th century than it has in all preceding centuries combined. Yet it is probably that if any child born today lives to become 100 years old, he will witness even greater changes than those of which the present day centenarian may boast. It is only necessary to take the various avenues of civic development and follow them to what must be their natural conclusions to appreciate this.

In the mere matter of the city’s growth, based on prevailing ideas, you may figure that if New York has multiplied in area and population over 50 times during the last 100 years, there will be in the year 2001 a metropolis extending half way down Long Island and up the state so far that cities like Poughkeepsie will be lost within its confines, much as old Greenwich village was lost within the spreading confines of Manhattan — in short, a city bigger than the combined 20 largest cities of the present day.

The possibilities of such a condition, judged by 19th century standards, truly may be said to be grim. Supplying such a city with food and drink, clothes and heat, transportation and amusement will be a task which, if suddenly put upon the nation, would tax its resources to the utmost, and even as an accretion of time it will invoke the cumulative ingenuity of the century’s economists to come. It is quite possible that the perfection of the flying machine and other inventions now merely hinted at will before suggesting what these radical changes could be, let us first see what a wonderful place New York will be a century hence in the natural course of events.

Strange New Motive Power

Mechanical power, easily produced, widely distributed and readily available for man, woman and child, will be perhaps the great distinguishing feature of future New York. It may be merely electrical power as we know it now, in which case it will be furnished probably by the tides harnessed to gigantic generators. It may be power generated directly from sunlight; or the gases of the air may be utilized. It may even be some form of energy as yet not understood — the kind Keely said he had harnessed — but, at any rate, it will be a universal agent. It will be used on the aerial and the underground railways, for the moving stairways of private houses, for cooking and for lighting the buildings, the miles of streets, the innumerable crossways and the subterranean passages under the thoroughfares.

This power problem must surely be solved by 2001, else the congestion in places will be truly terrific. The millions hurrying to and fro could not be handled according to nineteenth century ideas. The suburbanite hurrying at night to his home near Albany or to Block Island, or the man living on the outskirts of the city, in what once was Peekskill, would not get home in time for dinner if he were compelled to be one of fifty thousand waiting in line to buy a ticket at some ancient “L” ticket window. Many ways of egress from town will be provided for him. He will need aerial railways and underground roads, with trains running at terrific speed.

If he lives in a twenty story flat somewhere above old Yonkers, he will have to find means for charging his automobile at any point en route. So to provide for him in this last instance there necessarily will be up and down streets in New York in 2001, and the rules of the road will be rigidly enforced. The lines of aerial railway and the underground may take the bulk of the crowd, yet if power becomes so cheap that each person, however lowly, can have a vehicle of his own, or better still, if each can hire an automobile from the city at any street corner, leaving it when through with it at any other corner, it is likely that the inhabitants of the future metropolis will demand the extinction of the surface car and the freedom of the street from the curb.

Horses as Curiosities

There may perhaps be a few curiosities in the form of the genus horse, trained to harness, but that will be something possible only to the very rich. Or if the animal does not become rare he will be looked upon as we now look upon dogs — good pets for all who have room to keep them. He might, of course, be used for racing if the sports of the future will endure anything slower than a mile a minute. But his economic extinction is certain.

So we strike the keynote of New York city in 2001 — a place of intercommunicating machinery — a place of endless streets, on which perhaps there may be moving sidewalks, under which roomy tunnels, over which trains running silently at lightning speed, along which beautiful buildings, in which everything is done at the touch of a button, a city as light by night as by day, for, with unlimited energy, the lighting could be done with improved electric lamps, with vacuum tubes, or by a practical utilization of the Tesla theory, whereby immense plates, buried in the walls of buildings, spread the glow of daylight within and without all buildings.

If the city grows to the immense size predicted it is likely that no residences will be left on Manhattan Island. It must necessarily be given up entirely to business, an enormous hive of industry by day, a silent loom by night, presided over by watchmen. Perhaps, however, the lighting system will be so perfect that business will go on uninterruptedly day and night, each house employing two sets of employees.

Under such conditions, New York would be the capital of the world, and its merchants would do business on a scale befitting the commercial centre of such a country. The telephone, the wireless telegraph, the selenium scene recorder, would probably do away with correspondence as we know it now. Where would be the use of writing letters when the business man, without rising from his chair, could hold conversations with his agent in Bombay, Vladivostock, London or Cape Town?

An order from San Francisco would be followed by the immediate dispatch of the goods via the cigar shaped freight cars on the shuttle trunk system operated on its aerial track by electricity and controlled not by men on board but at long distance by the train dispatcher in the office of the company.

Amusements by Wire

This merchant of future New York will have many amusements, but it is a question if he will go to the theatre. He may not need to. It is even now possible to send pictures by wire and in one hundred years from now perhaps moving pictures may be sent by wire, in which case it would be merely necessary for the billionaire to turn on one of many electric switches connecting with the various theatres and immediately the stage scene would be thrown on a screen and would appear as real as though the spectator were in the theatre. Every word spoken or sung by the players would be reproduced by long distance phonograph or by an improved telephone, the sounds from which would be magnified so as to be heard all over the room.

This invention would have its application to business life. A partner in a main office in New York could both see and hear what was going on in his branch offices in Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Francisco. Every police station in town would be constantly visible to the chief of police. If by that time the electricians have found a way to prevent the electrification of the cable covering under the Atlantic Ocean, or if wireless telephony becomes a fact, the New Yorker of 2001 may sit at home some rainy night and both see and hear a speech made in the House of Lords, or watch with interest a Henley bumping race. In fact, the New Yorker of 2001 may take a different view of amusement from that held by his ancestor of to-day.

He might not, for instance, care much for roof gardens, but if he knew of one on a skyscraper a mile high he might order an elevator and go up of an evening to enjoy the mountainous air. Again, he might go down to the sea and engage passage in one of the big double turbine liners, half a mile long and running like a shuttle back and forth between Southampton and New York every two days.

And thereon the New Yorker would find all that could make life worth living. He would be one of a floating city and loath to leave it, for the shore could give him but little more than he could procure on that turbine steamer. His theatre, his club, his very home could be summoned via the moving picture screen at will. He could even hold long conversations with friends on other boats, during which he might discuss ancient history — how his great-grandfather used to travel on a steamer that took a whole week in the crossing and had no communication with land during all that time, and how jolly it must have been — and so on. He might even sigh for the excitement of a collision, a thing which would not be possible in the future, since the officers of each ship will know the exact location of all the other ships at sea by means of the improved wireless telegraph of the time.

If the passenger wished for seclusion he might go to Europe via the submarine line, made to operate one hundred feet beneath the surface and famed for its freedom from seasickness and the wonderful views it provided of sea monsters.

The housewife of 2001 will be confronted with a food problem differing slightly from that which confronts the housekeeper of today. True, she may be able still to by joints of beef, imported at fabulous prices from the South American campus or the African veldt, and if she is old and fussy she may grumble at the electric oven, and sigh for the good old days of the gas stove, just as the old lady of today yearns back to step stoves.

Concentrated Food Coming

She may regret the romance of basting the Thanksgiving turkey and complain that “cooking nowadays is all done by clockwork,” but the poor lady may be forgiven this dying protest of her hereditary instinct, for it may well be called up by the fact that she will be compelled to make soup or something else of nitrogenous capsules. At least if the prophecy of Sir William Crookes concerning the wheat supply comes true by the middle of the century, they may be somewhat put to it in 2001 to supply certain foods in a raw state. It is suggested that the chemist will come in here and do things with coal tar or some other sweet substance to make up the loss, but chemistry is not an exact science and the imagination can not piece out its possibilities.

One hundred years will make but little difference in the food supply of the city since it has the world to draw upon, but compared with the easy methods of today, there will be famine. People will be forced to consume chiefly concentrated extracts of those foods in which there is a maximum of nutriment. But there will be no abandoned farms in New England or anywhere else, since the gardens of the world will come ultimately to be overworked even as were the squatters’ plots in Manhattan a few years ago. Perhaps there will be a deep rooted philosophy which will carry the people back to farm life, but it is more than likely that the increasing gravitation cityward will case market gardening and general farming to be made compulsory for the preservation of the race, a thing to be worked out as farmers now work out their road tax.

There will also be some trouble in the matter of drink, since whiskey, beer, etc., depend directly on the supply of food. That there will be drunkards is probably out of the question. The human body will come ultimately to be so thoroughly understood and gauged by means of calorimeters like that of Professor Atwater, improved X-rays of marvelous power or weighing machines of infinite delicacy that people will be able to keep their bodies in through subjugation — on view inside and out — so that they will know to the fraction of a gram what is good to eat and drink and what is not.

This [good diet] being true, that large group of maladies due to improper food consumption would disappear. Cancer, which is rapidly passing tuberculosis in the race for the human race, would be stamped out, because its first appearance could be guarded against. The same would apply to other maladies. Ennui might be the principal disease.

Fashions of Posterity

How will the world dress in 2001? Here is truly a difficult matter for speculation, for Mistress Fashion is a wayward creature, who persists in running in cycles for hundreds of years, and then suddenly perhaps reaches out very illogically for the sickliest of fancies. Some centuries ago, let us say midway between the days of fig leaves and the present time, fashion reached the apex of her extravagance.

Since then, she has gradually toned down her fancies until the hygienic measure of her suppression is greater now than it ever was. This sane tendency will probably go on gathering strength until dress will be entirely a matter of comfort and health. Women will wear trousers or men will wear skirts, as the microbes decree, or, what is more likely, there will be a combination of the two, for, once the most healthful mode of dress is decided upon, it will be adopted with slight variation for both sexes alike.

The Mayor of New York in 2001 will be more powerful politically than the present President of the United States, and the army of office-holders under his patronage more numerous than the ancient Army of the Potomac. But no one Mayor could manage the town as New York is now managed. There would need to be many deputy Mayors, and the subdivision would obtain through the various departments the Police, Street Cleaning and Post Office departments being apportioned among the numerous geographical sections, and each sub-mayor would need many assistants, for the area of the city will be still further increased by the numerous bridges over the North and East rivers and the many tunnels under them, each holding railways, footways, automobile routes, freight routes, etc.

City Hall in Central Park

It is likely, if the island is given up entirely to business, that Central Park ultimately will become the site of sumptuous municipal offices, housing thousands of clerks and connected with all outlying offices by pneumatic dispatch tubes, special wireless telegraph and telephone systems. The Post Office Department may possibly lose its old time usefulness, except in the matter of forwarding records, phonographic or otherwise, for who will want to transcribe long letters when the matter may be done by word of mouth with less trouble? This feature of life may have its effect on the schools, in which children will be taught phonetically, and on the newspapers, which possibly may send out news via talking machines, billboards or otherwise.

This may be the New York of 2001 if people are still held to earth as they are nowadays. But let one flying machine be perfected, and there will be a total change in the habits of the race. There will be no use for tunnels, for bridges, for the thousand and one things which inability to soar makes necessary. With flying machines New York would not grow as predicted.

Only the very poor would need to live in apartments. The owner of a machine, or even the man who did not own one, by patronizing the express lines, could live 500 miles away and yet do business in the city day by day, going by air line to his home each night. Of course, in a supposition of this kind, the imagination might be allowed to go on and on until all kinds of fanciful pictures are created. It is but a possibility, whereas the other things are probabilities easily within reach of the dweller in New York 100 years from today.