Wednesday, February 24, 2016

What Will the New Century See?

Continuing on the theme of late-19th century prophesies of the 20th century, I offer this article by George L. Kilmer. Kilmer wrote a number of popular science articles and was also a war historian. His vision of the future relies heavily on comments by Nikola Tesla.

What Will the New Century See? A Dip into the Future
by George L. Kilmer
as published, December 29, 1900, Aberdeen Daily News (Aberdeen, South Dakota), page 2.

  Were a prophet to foretell an advancement in manners, morals, learning and social and material progress for the next century equal to that of the last he would certainly be set down as a dreamer. Thinkers who are not pessimists believe that in many directions the limit, or about that, has been reached.

  In mechanical inventions the nineteenth century achieved wonders which recall Aladdin and his lamp. Yet bold scientists declare that we may expect revelations of hidden energy in the sun and earth and air, which may be harnessed to do the work of mankind. Tesla believes in the possibility of a solar engine, he considers wireless telegraphy proved beyond a doubt, is working at a teleautomaton which will be simply a mentally endowe3d mechanism and declares he has discovered electrical oscillations which will produce steady light without the aid of lamps, incandescent filaments or wires.

  Tesla also predicts an industrial revolution in the dethronement of iron and elevation of aluminum. He estimates the civilizing potency of aluminum as 100 times greater than that of iron and its bulk available for man 30 times greater. Liquid air, while a marvelous discovery, he holds can never be commercially profitable.

  The sole aim of the scientist, Tesla insists, should be the increase of human energy and in that way the increase of human happiness. Material advancement is only a means to social advancement, and so after all the landmarks of progress are the monuments of social changes. The conditions of life for the masses upon this globe 100 years henbce are of more consequence as a speculative topic even than the rare culture or superior development of a few or a class. What will be the conditions of life, and especially what degree of immunity from grinding toil, from hunger and from disease, in the year 2001. It may be assumed that in the United States, if anywhere, the progress will be steady for another century. The country is comparatively new and its resources only partially developed. Should the population increase for the next 100 years in the same proportion as in the last 20 years it will then contain about 400,000,000 souls. In 1801 the population was about 5,000,000, which is but 1,000,000 more than the population of Greater New York and the Jersey suburbs today. New York should have a population at the end of the twentieth century of over 20,000,000 if its growth remains normal and proportionate to that of the whole country upon the above calculation.

  At present New York attracts about one-eighteenth of the total population of the country and Chicago about one-half as many as New York. In another hundred years Chicago should have a population of about 13,000,000, Philadelphia 10,000,000, Boston, St. Louis and Baltimore each 3,000,000, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Cleveland, New Orleans and Pittsburgh 2,000,000 each and Detroit, Milwaukee and Minneapolis 1,500,000. In that era a population of 1,000,000 will be nothing extraordinary for a thriving inland city, and this conclusion is borne out by the history of densely populated countries in the old world.

  The great industrial future which seems fixed by the hand of fate for this country will for generations at least tend to the growth of cities. Not alone that, but the attractions of city life will draw to them a mass of people still having commercial interests remote from the towns. The rapid means of communication will permit the landowner and the country manufacturer to dwell in the city the greater part of the year and still look after their business interests at a distance. And what marvels of cheapness and convenience those cities of the future will be. Municipal ownership of all enterprises which conduce to public convenience, the railways, boats, telegraph, heating and lighting plants, of libraries and perhaps of amusements, will reduce the cost of city life, which now appalls the economic visitor, to a merely nominal sum.

  At present the tide of population sets toward the cities and while this must change, eventually a century is nothing in the life of a nation, and leaving out the probability of some great social upheaval forcing the people back to the soil there seems no reason why the commercial and industrial development of 1901 should not continue to the end of the century and not then have reached its limit.

  The danger to health of massing millions of people in cities must be overcome by scientific appliances and discoveries. Cities of the old world have been depopulated by epidemics which would not be allowed to run their course today. The water of the future city will be pure, the temperature will be equalized, food will be scientifically prepare and men will more and more obey the common sense laws of health, avoiding extremes of exertion and stimulation.

  Many propositions for the simplification of life which now seem chimerical may yet justify their champions. Condensed milk has stood the test of half a century of use, and other foods may be prepared in quantities by inexpensive labor and thus make it possible to live, if not on 15 cents a day, at least without the cost of maintaining a separate kitchen for every three or four persons. In that happy time there will perhaps be no necessity for reducing the hours of sleep to four in every 24, yet if the forms of entertainment multiply with other things everybody can keep awake 20 hours a day without suffering ennui.

  The scientists tell us that even at the rapid rate projected for all forms of activity life and limb will be measurably secure. The perfect airship is one of the certainties of dreamers, but even Tesla warns the nations who would be ready to cast about for means of attaining supremacy in the matter of "air power." If airy navies, then of course passenger lines. The passenger for Buffalo can be "put off" safely from a transcontinental "flier" by means of a parachute, and, although the artist won't believe it as yet, he need not wake up even, but have his berth transferred from the stateroom and slung under the ribs of the canopy. There he may finish his sleep as comfortably as did the nineteenth century tourist in a Wagner or Pullman at the terminal sheds.

  Even war is to be robbed of its ghastliness, for, according to Tesla, machines will do the fighting of the future and sustain all the hard knocks, their human manipulators being out of range. Finally contests will come to be mere duels between automatons, and broken metal will figure in the casualty lists instead of broken bones.

  Photography, a nineteenth century development, is on the cards wonders greater than those yet achieved. Photography in colors is a certainty of near future, and that wonder of the age, the typesetting machine, is doomed to fall down before the camera, which is to reproduce upon the printing plate text and pictures as set in order in the editor's sanctum without bringing in the aid of compositors or type.

  The artist thinks that the Chinese imbroglio will not be settled until Uncle Sam can short horse sense down a well curb into John Chinaman's ear. And there is no wilder flight of imagination than prophecies of nineteenth century marvels which have become commonplaces would have been on New Year's day, 1801.


Tesla' Telautomaton.

A Predator's Game is available for pre-order through Amazon.

A Predator's Game, available March 30, 2016, Rook's Page Publishing.

Nikola Tesla, Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Henry H. Holmes are all characters in my forthcoming thriller, A Predator's Game, Rook's Page Publishing, March 30, 2016.

Back page blurb of A Predator's Game (advance copy, subject to change).

Manhattan, 1896.

When the author Arthur Conan Doyle meets Nikola Tesla he finds a tall, thin genius with a photographic memory and a keen eye, and recognizes in the eccentric inventor the embodiment of his creation, Sherlock. Together, they team up to take on an "evil Holmes." Multi-murderer Dr. Henry H. Holmes has escaped execution and is unleashing a reign of terror upon the metropolis. Set in the late nineteenth century in a world of modern marvels, danger and invention, Conan Doyle and Tesla engage the madman in a deadly game of wits.

Martin Hill Ortiz, also writing under the name, Martin Hill, is the author of A Predatory Mind. Its sequel, set in 1890s Manhattan and titled A Predator's Game, will be available from Rook's Page Publishing, March 30, 2016. It features Nikola Tesla as detective.

His recent mystery, Never Kill A Friend, is available from Ransom Note Press. His epic poem, Two Mistakes, recently won second place in the Margaret Reid/Tom Howard Poetry Competition. He can be contacted at


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