The Ladies’ Home Journal Predicts

In December of 1900, the Ladies’ Home Journal published an article titled “What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years” by one John Elfreth Watkins, Jr. Though Mr. Watkins did not predict the fact that during the century in question, fine names such as “Elfreth” would be tragically phased out, he did in fact manage to make some rather amazing predictions. Some are remarkably prescient; others… not so much. But they’re certainly entertaining.

Herewith, a smattering of Mr. Watkins’ prognostications for the year 2001.

The American will be taller by one to two inches. His increase of stature will result from better health, due to vast reforms in medicine, sanitation, food and athletics.

True. Unfortunately, our “reforms” in food also have led us to a 35% obesity rate, compared to a rate of less than 4% in 1900. Yet the state of our overall health has clearly improved, judging by Mr. Watkins’ next prediction:

[The American] will live 50 years instead of 35 as at present – for he will reside in the suburbs. The city house will practically be no more. Building in blocks will be illegal.

Okay, so this predictions business is not for the faint of heart. Mr. Watkins also hopefully declared that

Insect screens will be unnecessary. Mosquitoes, house-flies and roaches will have been practically exterminated… Rats and mice will have been exterminated.

I share with you these incorrect predictions partly so you’ll be all the more impressed by the ones Mr. Watkins got right. And he definitely got some doozies.

Photographs will be telegraphed from any distance. If there be a battle in China a hundred years hence, snapshots of its most striking events will be published in the newspapers an hour later.

Not bad! But wait – it gets better.

Persons and things of all kinds will be brought within focus of cameras connected electrically with screens at opposite ends of circuits, thousands of miles at a span… the instrument bringing these distant scenes to the very doors of people will be connected with a giant telephone apparatus transmitting each incidental sound in its appropriate place.

Holy Internets! The man’s a genius. And he also foresaw the greatest benefit to Guglielmo Marconi’s new invention, the wireless telegraph:

A husband in the middle of the Atlantic will be able to converse with his wife sitting at her boudoir in Chicago.

… in which she can confirm for him, in her sexiest boudoir voice, “Dave, I’m home!”

Some of Mr. Watkins’ predictions are delightfully fanciful:

Pneumatic tubes, instead of store wagons, will deliver packages and bundles. These tubes will collect, deliver and transport mail over certain distances, perhaps for hundreds of miles.


Strawberries as large as apples will be eaten by our great-great-grandchildren for their Christmas dinners a hundred years hence… Peas and beans will be as large as beets are to-day.


There will be no C, X or O in our every-day alphabet. They will be abandoned because unnecessary.

Or, as I’m sure he meant to write, “They will be abandned beause unneessary.”

And then there are the predictions that got me a little misty-eyed. There’s something about these — their naivete, or some optimistic notion that we would be better, or more compassionate, than we turned out to be, that chokes me up:

Poor students will be given free board, free clothing and free books if ambitious and actually unable to meet their school and college expenses. Medical inspectors regularly visiting the public schools will furnish poor children free eyeglasses, free dentistry and free medical attention of every kind… In vacation time poor children will be taken on trips to various parts of the world.


Exercise will be compulsory in the schools… All cities will have public gymnasiums. A man or a woman unable to walk ten miles at a stretch will be regarded as a weakling.


Giant guns will shoot 25 miles or more…

Twenty-five miles! A man who foresaw something akin to the Internet apparently couldn’t begin to conceive of what horrible new weaponry might evolve over the 20th century.

No, Mr. Watkins was clearly better at the kinder, gentler side of prognostication. No longer would people have to stoke the furnace fire, he declared, because

Hot or cold air will be turned on from spigots to regulate the temperature of a house.

And the evening meal will become much easier on the woman of the house, because

Ready-cooked meals will be bought from establishments similar to our bakeries of today.

And finally, my favorite prediction just for its sheer randomness:

Oranges will grow in Philadelphia.

My god, he even foresaw global warming, clearly.

Any brave predictions for 2101?

49 responses to “The Ladies’ Home Journal Predicts”

  1. lane says:

    A church headquarted in Hollywood founded by Lisa Parrish, based on the sacred insights of John Elfreth Watkins, Jr., will attract thousands of adherents and a few movie stars.

    That, and Bill Clinton’s clone will still be on the campaign trail.

  2. Stella says:

    Finally, a religion I can believe in!

    I think you’re wrong on the intention of deleting C,O, and X – he would have written:

    They will be abanduned bekause unnesessary.

  3. Marleyfan says:

    Marleyfan predicts that in 2101:

    Cancer will be eliminated.

    There will be no need for proponents of diversity, for all shall be accepting.

    There will be three major political parties in America, thus ending the conservative/liberal polarity. The movement will be initiated by TGW followers, who become vastly rich, popular, and handsome.

    World religions will pull people together, rather than apart.

    Free trade will occur world-wide.

    China will free Tibet, and the Dali Lama becomes a world leader who reorganizes the United Nations. The UN will then have substantial power and influence to bring the world together.

    Automobiles will run on electricity, which will be generated without fossil fuels.

    The term “Coast-to-Coast” will again be an often used term, since travel will not only be easy, it will be easily affordable by all.

    The world markets and economy’s will use one currency called the Internationale’

    Fast-food restaurants will serve really tasty and healthy food cheap.

    Historians will write that Obama was one of the best presidents, who initiated health-care reform, national unity and pride, a workable solution to illegal immigration, and a foreign policy which united the world.

    With the world changing in so many positive ways, we will go to a four day work week.

    Scientists will invent a machine that prevents a “so-happy-with-himself smirk” for George Bush when people clap for him.

    No longer will people use the line “Luuuuucy, I’m hoooome”, instead, in their boudoir voice-, “Daaaaaavy, I’m hoooooome”.

  4. Dave says:

    Have I linked to the burrito tunnel before? Pneumatic tubes are awesome.

  5. Ruben Mancillas says:

    # 3 what do you mean, become handsome?

  6. Scotty says:

    Wow, Marley, I’d love to take a long vacation inside that positive mind of yours.

  7. Marleyfan says:

    #5 I meant to say-remain handsome and beautiful
    #6 You and any other GWI’s have an open invitation to both my positive mind and to Wenatchee, Washington (Utopia of the world, just ask my sister, Stephanie S-W).
    Viva la Burrito!

  8. Mike N. says:

    i always hoped the Indian restaurants on 6th Street in NYC used only one kitchen, with a pneumatic delivery system. I guess I didn’t dream big enough..

    flyin’ cars…it ain’t progress til there’s flyin’ cars.

  9. LT says:

    Perhaps…people will continue to evolve into pneumatic tubes?

  10. Jeremy Zitter says:


  11. taryn says:

    I know a guy who once had a dream to buy an old bank building and transform it into a sandwich shop(pe), delivering people’s sandwiches directly to their car window via tube. Whatever happened to that dream, dude? I bet they eat sandwiches in Portland….

  12. Scotty says:

    #19: Damn you for breaking my super obnoxious chain.

  13. taryn says:

    has anyone read the book feed? It’s about a future society wherein computer chips (“the feed”) are implanted in everyone’s brains and are basically like a 24/7 link to the internet. You can chat your friends just by thinking and you have a constant barage (sp?) of advertisements piped into your brain. Anyone want to put a bet on how close that will be to the reality of 2101?

  14. taryn says:

    sorry, #23. you weren’t there when i started. maybe i’ll be typing faster in 2101.

  15. Scotty says:

    No harm. Welcome to the Whatsit. BTW, that type of prediction (the one about the computer chips) is the kind of stuff I obsess about. We’re like conspiracy freak-out BFFs.

  16. Natasha says:

    I predict immortality. I predict there will be a pill that one will take and stay at the biological age of 19-23 forever and it will be up to an individual when he/she decides to go. There will be no such question as to “how old are you?” and no such answer as “ohh, I thought…” Everyone will be judged by their mind powers, abilities, skills, and talents and not by their age. Due to immortality the humankind will become wise, benevolent, beautiful and rich. There will be no world hunger, no murder and all children will be raised happy and healthy.

  17. LT says:

    #27: Well, um, either your prediction or…have you read The Road?

  18. Robert says:

    Now let’s not be giving all the credit to Mr. Watkins here. He was probably echoing the sentiments of some famous scientists of his day. Some of that stuff sounds right out of Tesla, for example, who was already in the process of inventing some of that stuff.

  19. Marleyfan says:

    The Road was a great read, but altogether too dark. I prefer too walk the well-lit positive Road.

    And, in the spirit/words of the Bob-
    Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our own minds…Won’t you help to sing, these songs of freedom…redemption song!

  20. Natasha says:

    # 28 I have never heard of The Road. Most of my close girlfriends turned 30 in the past couple years. This New Years Eve, according to our little tradition, we made wishes while taking shots. One of the wishes was that we all make it before we get too old to enjoy it, so we all agreed to stay this way for another twenty years and then there will be a remedy for old age. Since The Pill is such an easy solution to many issues, we figured that’s what the remedy will be like and got a big laugh out of it. I’ll have to read The Road though and no I would not pass somebody else’s ideas for my own.

  21. trixie says:

    don’t worry- your prediction is pretty much the opposite of the road.
    i don’t think that is what LT meant…
    sounds like a fun NYE tradition with your friends…

  22. lane says:

    scott’s thing is cool if you think it’s stupid and scroll down it really fast

  23. trixie says:

    that’s what she said.

  24. Natasha says:

    Thanks Trixie:) This year we all had too many wishes, so I vaguely recall what happened after the wishing part. All I remembered was my friend, who was trying to convince me not to jump in the pool. Interestingly enough, her logical explanation she thought would work to convince me was not because it was freezing outside, but mainly because we already did that on the 4th of July and we looked like wet rats after that.

  25. lane says:

    I didn’t mean to call scott’s thing stupid. it’s just that’s it’s REALLY cool if you think ” I don’t have time for this” and read it all at once.


  26. Mark says:

    Oh yes, the pneumatic tube drive-thru. An idea who’s time has not yet come.

    Well now, I just found the cheeseburger in a can website, so maybe it’s time to start dreaming again.

    Cheeseburger in a can!

    I apologize in advance should this link not work, and I thank a mod in advance for fixing it.

  27. swells says:

    #34: NICE, trixie (or was that Chief William in da house?)

  28. it had to be william.

    and in #36, “read” s/b ?

  29. lane says:

    what’s “read” s/b?

  30. PB says:


  31. I’m still looking for that “meal in a pill” thing. You put it on a plate and it goes *poof* when you put it in the microwave. Or a meal in a piece of chewing gum. I’ll take that one too.

    Except I want to be an orange. It’ll be a nice excuse to get the rest of the day off work after my lunch break.

  32. bw says:

    40 — “read” should be “slobber on it”?

  33. baby chief william says:

    that’s what she said!

  34. #42 – that meal in a stick of gum thing only works if you spit it out before you hit the dessert.

    Mmmm, pie.

  35. Dave says:

    This comment thread has devolved into some kind of Fluxus thing, right?

  36. swells says:

    I have now idea. grate coments everyone

  37. lane says:

    calling Al Hansen . . . Al Hansen, please come in . . .

  38. Natasha says:

    Kate TG, that was Willy Wonka’s idea:) He could never get it to work though.