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John J. Ingalls, "Remarkable Changes in Everyday Life"
1893



 

Background

Consider This Question

 

In the early 1890s, the American Press Association put together a feature series of writings in preparation for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. They commissioned 74 notable Americans to make predictions about American life in the 1990s, in the process producing an interesting commentary on life in the 1890s. The variety of essays reflected the diversity of the contributors, including a senator (John J. Ingalls), an electrical engineer (John J. Carty), a poet (Elizabeth Akers Allen), and a minister (Thomas De Witt Talmage). The segments ran in newspapers across the country from March through May 1893, in time for the World's Fair opening.



Man, having conquered the earth and the sea, will complete his dominion over nature by the subjugation of the atmosphere. This will be the crowning triumph of the coming century.

Long before 1993, the journey from New York City to San Francisco, across the continent, and from New York City to London, across the sea, will be made between the sunrise and sunset of a summer day. The railway and the steamship will be as obsolete as the stagecoach. And it will be as common for the citizen to call for his dirigible balloon as it now is for his buggy or his boots. Electricity will be the motive power, and aluminium or some lighter metal will be the material of the aerial cars, which will navigate the abyss of the sky.

The electric telegraph will be supplanted by the telephone, which will be perfected and simplified. Telephone instruments, located in every house and office, will permit the communication of business and society to be conducted by the voice at will from Boston to Moscow and Hoang-Ho, just as readily as now between neighboring villages.

This will dispose of the agitation of the proposition of take the railroads and telegraphs away from those who own them and give them to those who do not.

Domestic life and avocations will be rendered easier, less costly, and less complex by the distribution of light, heat, and energy through storage cells or from central electric stations. Thus the "servant problem" will cease to disturb. Woman, having more leisure, will elevate her political and social status from subordination to equality with man.

The contest between brains and numbers, which began with the birth of the race, will continue to its extinction. The struggle will be fierce and more relentless in the coming century than ever before in the history of humanity. But brains will keep on top, as usual. As before, those who fail will outnumber those who succeed.

Wealth will accumulate, business will combine, and the gulf between the rich and the poor will be more profound. But wider education and greater activity of the moral forces of the race ultimately will compel recognition of the fact that the differences between men are organic and fundamental -- that they result from an act of God and cannot be changed by an act of Congress.

The attempt to abolish poverty, pay debts, and cure the ills of society by stature will be the favorite prescription of ignorance, incapacity, and credulity for the next 100 years -- as it has been from the beginning of civilization.

The condition in the United States is unprecedented, in that all the implacables and malcontents are armed with the ballot. Thus, if they are unanimous, they can control the purse and the sword by legislation. Nevertheless, the perception exists that the social and political condition here, with all its infirmities, remains immeasurably the best. This perception will undoubtedly make our system permanent and preserve it even against essential modifications.

Our greatest city in 1993? Chicago! It is a vortex, with a constantly increasing circumference, into which the wealth and population of the richest and most fertile area of the earth's surface is constantly concentrating. When this anniversary returns, Chicago will be not only the greatest city in the United States, but also in the world.


 

Consider This Question

Background

 

1. Ingalls states that "Woman, having more leisure, will elevate her political and social status from subordination to equality with man." How is this connected to the technological advances of the late 19th century?




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