Green Thinking circa 1888?

I came across an interesting article in a volume of All the Year Round from 1888 that got me thinking about Victorian fascinations with the future. One particular passage about energy technologies in the year 1988 struck me as curious, especially considering our own green movement,  so I thought I would post it here for your perusal:

It will require but little fanciful exaggeration to picture a very much changed England in A.d. 1988. Long before that date, in all probability, steam will have been superseded by electricity; the railways of to-day will be unknown; the lumbering, puffing locomotives, of which we are now so proud, will have been relegated to the region of the useless, even as the good old stage-coach has been, and noiseless hundredmile-an-hour electric engines will have taken their places. Possibly even these latter will be found too cumbersome for our progressive successors of a century hence. Who knows but that the pneumatic tube may be so improved upon that passengers, in days to come, may be shot along from station to station at a speed which, with our nineteenth century knowledge, we can but guess at?

After reading this passage, I couldn’t help asking myself, if the Victorians could predict the coming of electric vehicles and the Jetsons, why can’t we figure out what happened to the electric car?

Source: “England a Century Hence: A Speculative Forecast.” All the Year Round 43 (17 November 1888): 474.


The Relevance of Edison’s Ear?

Readers, you may be interested in a new website that features Canadian documentary films, many of which were screened at one time or another at the wonderful Hotdocs Documentary film festival that takes place annually in Toronto. There are a few films that may be particularly relevant to scholars of the nineteenth century including Seeking Salvation, which is a history of Black churches in Canada including their role in the underground railroad, and The Jolifou Inn, a short film from 1955 about the art of Cornelius Krieghoff.

I was particularly excited to see Francisca Duran’s interesting film Mr. Edison’s Ear, which I missed at the 2008 Hotdocs festival, included in the on-line documentary library. Continue reading “The Relevance of Edison’s Ear?”