A Brief Visual History of the Future

If there’s anything to attest to humanity’s belief that the future is what we make of it, it’s our unceasing obsession with mapping it out. Depictions of the future date back to drawings on cave walls and continue as 35 mm film and HTML; Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey basically features an iPad, and yesterday on the Daily Beast, three architecture firms imagined what our cities will look like in 2030. But surpassing our obsession with the future is a newer fixation on the history of predicting the future (here’s a cinematic one), which is the topic of this fall’s issue of Lapham’s Quarterly, which comes out this week. Check out our gallery of quaint, outdated, and scarily accurate images of the future through the eyes of the past after the jump.

An 1850s cartoon depicts a future of balloon-filled skies. Drawings of ballooning transport became popular after Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Balloon Hoax,” a false story about an adventurer’s trip across the Atlantic Ocean, was published in and then retracted from a newspaper in 1844. The real first transatlantic balloon trip occurred, and crashed, in 1919.