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c. 1900

Postcards from the year 2000

Who better to explore the future than the marketing department of German chocolate manufacturers?

Ah, the future: it’s not what it once was. There was a time when the very idea of the year 2000 seemed like pure science-fiction. We would all wear jetpacks and take our holidays on the moon.

Two decades later, while we can buy electronic cigarettes at the corner store, the future has somewhat lost its luster. There is only so much excitement one can muster for quantum computing.

But 120 years ago, the future — and specifically the year 2000 — remained an undiscovered country. And who better to explore it than the marketing department of the German chocolate manufacturers, Theodor Hildebrand & Sone? 

For the 1900 Paris World Fair, the chocolatiers decided that they would sell more candy if they predicted how technology would evolve over the next century — and then gave away the results on a set of postcards.

So that is what the firm proceeded to do, with gusto, all dressed up in a gloriously Victorian Steampunk vibe (at the time, of course, this was entirely normal). From our 2020 vantage point, one-fifth of the way through the 21st century, their postcard visions are often preposterous — and occasionally, viewed from a certain angle, uncannily prescient. We may not have weather generators, but our ability to pollute the environment is very clear.

Bear in mind that, in 1900, radio did not exist, let alone TV, and the Wright Brothers’ conquest of the air was still three years off.

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