As we enter the new year perhaps we are more sensitive than usual to what has passed and what, we wonder, is to come. It can be very amusing to consider what those before us predicted today would be like. Think of reading George Orwell’s 1984 sometime after it was written in 1949 and then living through and after 1984. Thankfully, not everything turned out “Orwellian” although, arguably, some things did.
This piece of sheet music from the Grosvenor Room Reference Sheet Music Collection begged for consideration this new year. “A Hundred Years from Now” by Caddigan, Brennan and Story has a copyright date of 1914—exactly a hundred years from its publication date. It chorus asks “I wonder what kind of life they’ll lead a hundred years from now? I wonder whats going to be the speed a hundred years from now …”
The lyrics bemoan change–social change that is.
Picture this town that once was just a pasture,
Picture the girls who roam’d it years ago—
They were the wonderful kind you know the kind I’ve in mind
The sort of girl the world calls slow.—
Apparently the artist Starmer did not have the lyrics because he designed a cover about technological rather than social change. The cover shown above illustrates all types of aircraft and skyscrapers crowding the sky as an elfin character in the foreground peers through a collapsible telescope at this other-worldliness.
Taking this glimpse backward at something culturally meant to predict what lies ahead (for us now), we conclude that there is little point in even trying to prognosticate–socially, technologically, or otherwise–because it is beyond our imaginations by design. Happy New Year from the Grosvenor Rare Book Room!