The optimism-inspired design of the mid-20th century generated some of the most iconic images in the American imagination — including, notoriously enough, the idea of flying cars. Anyone who’s acquainted with The Jetsons will confess to at least partly measuring human progress in terms how many retro-futuristic gadgets we’ve come up with. While augmented reality glasses, automated kill drones, and iPhones may come pretty close, part of us still yearns for cartoonish ’50s-style flying Cadillacs. Boing Boing sheds some light on why exactly those seemingly impractical futuristic promises became so popular among advertisers during the financial struggles of the war and post-war years, and also points out that even while it was happening there were those who remained skeptical.
But mid-century futurism wasn’t strictly limited to American optimism. The USSR also enjoyed its own golden age of grandiose dreams about modern society and technology. As the Soviet government sought to showcase its power and technological prowess in areas like urban design, space exploration, agriculture, infrastructure, and transportation, our Cold War competitors came up with some highly imaginative renderings of the envisioned future. Things Magazine came across this brilliant gallery created by Socialism Expo of Soviet-era illustrations from Technology-Youth magazine, depicting flying cars, spaceships, monorails, and marine hovercrafts, among other things. We’ve posted some of the more fantastically imagined designs below.