In 1885, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., owner of the New York Herald
(the same man who sent Stanley to Africa to find Livingstone) asked Jules
Verne to write a short story about life in the United States a thousand
years hence. Ironically, the resulting tale was not printed until
1889--and not in the New York Herald.
Little though they seem to think of it, the people of this 29th century live continually in fairyland. Surrounded with marvels, they are indifferent to marvels. To them all seems natural. Could they but appreciate the refinements of civilization in our day; could they but compare the present with the past, and recognize the advances we have made! How much fairer they would find our modern towns, with populations exceeding 10,000,000 souls; steets 300 feet wide, houses 100 feet high; with a constant temperature in all seasons; and lines of aerial locomotion crossing the sky in all directions! If they could but imagine the state of things that once existed, when through muddy streets rumbling boxes on wheels, drawn by horses--yes, horses!--were the only means of conveyance. Think of the railroads of old, and you will appreciate the pneumatic tubes through which today we travel at 100 miles an hour. Would not our contemporaries prize the telephone and telephote more, had they not forgotten the telegraph?
Surprisingly, all these transformations rest on principles perfectly familiar to our remote ancestors, which they disregarded. Heat, for instance, is as ancient as man himself; electricity was known 3000 years ago, and steam 1100. Nay, so early as 10 centuries ago it was known that the differences between the several chemical and physical forces depend on the mode of vibration of etheric particles, which is for each specifically different. When at last the kinship of all these forces was discovered, it is simply astounding that 500 years still elapsed before men could analyze and describe the distinct modes of vibration that constitute these differences. Above all, it is amazing that the method of reproducing these forces directly from one another, and of reproducing one without the others, should have remained undiscovered till less than a century ago. Nevertheless, such was the course of events, for it was not till the year 2792 that the famous Oswald Nier made this discovery.
Truly was he a great benefactor of the human race. His admirable discovery led to many others. Hence is sprung a pleiad of inventors, its brightest star our great Joseph Jackson. To Jackson we are indebted those wonderful instruments--the new accumulators. Some of these absorb and condense the living force contained in the sun's rays; others, the electricity stored in our globe; others again, energy from whatever source: waterfalls, streams, wind, etc. He, too, invented the transformer, a more wonderful contrivance still, which takes the living force from the accumulator, and, at the touch of a button, returns it to space in any form desired, whether as heat, light, electricity, or mechanical force, after having first obtained from it the work required. From the day these two instruments were contrived should be dated the era of true progress. They have put into the hands of man almost infinite power. As for their applications, they are numberless. Mitigating the rigors of winter, by giving back to the atmosphere the surplus heat stored up during the summer, they have revolutionized agriculture. Supplying motive power for aerial navigation, they have given to commerce a mighty impetus. To them we are indebted for the continuous production of electricity without batteries or dynamos, of light without combustion or incandescence, and for an unfailing supply of mechanical energy for the needs of industry.
Yes, the accumulator and the transformer have wrought all these wonders. And can we not to them also trace, indirectly, this latest wonder of all, the great "Earth Chronicle" building on 253rd Avenue, which was dedicated the other day? If George Washington Smith, founder of the Manhattan "Chronicle", should come back to life today, what would he think when told that this place of marble and gold belongs to his remote descendant, Fritz Napoleon Smith, who, after 30 generations, is owner of the same newpaper that his ancestor established!
For George Washington Smith's newspaper has lived generation after generation, now passing out of the family, anon coming back to it. When, 200 years ago, the political center of the United States was transferred from Washington to Centropolis, the newspaper followed the government and assumed the name of Earth Chronicle. Unfortunately, it was unable to maintain itself at the high level of its name. Pressed on all sides by more modern rival journals, it was continually in danger of collapse. 20 years ago its subscription list contained but a few hundred thousand names, and then Mr. Fritz Napoleon bought it for a mere trifle, and originated telephonic journalism.
Everyone is familiar with Fritz Napoleon Smith's system--a system made possible by the enormous development of telephony during the last hundred years. Instead of being printed, the Earth Chronicle is every morning spoken to subscribers, who, from interesting conversations with reporters, statesmen and scientists, learn the news of the day. Furthermore, each subscriber owns a phonograph, and to this instrument he leaves the task of gathering the news whenever he happens not to be in a mood to listen directly himself. As for purchasers of single copies, they can at a nominal cost learn all that is in the paper of the day at any of the innumerable phonographs set up nearly everywhere.
Fritz Napoleon Smith's innovation galvanized the old newspaper. In the course of a few years the number of subscribers grew to 85,000,000 and Smith's wealth went on growing, till now it reaches the almost unimaginable figure of $10,000,000,000. This lucky hit has enabled him to erect his new building, a vast edifice with four facades, each 3250 feet in length, over which proudly floats the hundred-starred flag of the Union. Thanks to the same lucky hit, he is today king of newspaperdom; indeed, he would be king of America, too, if Americans could ever accept a king. You do not believe it? Well, then, look at the plenipotentiaries of all nations and our own ministers themselves crowding about his door, entreating his counsels, begging for his approbation, imploring the aid of his all-powerful organ. Add up the number of scientists and artists he supports, of inventors under his pay.
Yes, a king is he. And in truth his is a royalty full of burdens. His labors are incessant, and, doubtless, in earlier times any man would have succumbed under the overpowering stress Mr. Smith endures. Fortunately for him, thanks to the progress of hygiene, which, abating all the old sources of disease, has lifted human life expectancy from 37 up to 52 years, men have stronger constitutions now than heretofore. The discovery of nutritive air remains in the future, but in the meantime men today consume food scientifically compounded and prepared, and breathe an atmosphere free of the microoganisms that once swarmed in it; hence they live longer than their forefathers and know nothing of the innumerable ailments of olden times.
Nevertheless, Fritz Napoleon Smith's mode of life may well astonish one. His iron constitution is taxed to the utmost by the heavy strain upon it. Vain the attempt to estimate the amount of labor he undergoes; only an example can give an idea of it. Let us go about with him for one day as he attends to his multifarious concerns. What day? That matters little; it is the same every day. Let us take at random September 25th of this present year 2889.
This morning Mr. Fritz Napoleon Smith awakes in very bad humor. His wife left for France eight days ago; he feels disconsolate. Incredible though it seems, in the 10 years since their marriage, this is the first time Mrs. Edith Smith, the professional model, has been so long absent from home; two or three days usually suffice for her frequent trips to Europe. The first thing Mr. Smith does is activate his phonotelephote, the wires of which communicate with his Paris mansion. The telephote! Here is another great triumph of modern science. The transmission of speech is an old story; the transmission of images by means of sensitive mirrors connected by wires is a thing but of yesterday. A valuable invention indeed; Mr. Smith this morning is full of blessings for the inventor, when by its aid he is able distinctly to see his wife despite her great distance.
Two minutes later the machine deposits him all dressed at the threshold of his office. The round of journalistic work begins. First he enters the hall of novelists, a vast apartment crowned with an enormous transparent cupola. In one corner is a telephone, through which a hundred Earth Chronicle litterateurs in turn recount to the public in daily installments a hundred novels. Smith addresses one of these authors awaiting his turn: "Capital! Capital, my dear fellow, your last story. The scene where the village maid discusses interesting philosophical problems with her lover shows your acute power of observation. Never have the ways of country folk been better portrayed. Keep on, my dear Archibald, keep on! Since yesterday, thanks to you, there is a gain of 5000 subscribers."
"Mr. John Last," he begins again, turning to a new arrival, "I am not as pleased with your work. Your story is not a picture of life; it lacks the elements of truth. And why? Simply because you run straight on to the end; because you do not analyze. Your heroes do this thing or that from this or that motive, which you assign without ever a thought of dissecting their mental and moral natures. Our feelings, you must remember, are far more complex. In real life every act is the result of a hundred thoughts that come and go, and these you must study, one by one, if you would create a living character. 'But,' you will say, 'in order to note these fleeting thoughts one must know them, must be able to follow them in their capricious meanderings.' Why, any child can do that, as you know. Simply make use of hypnotism, electrical or human, which gives one a twofold being, setting free the witness-personality so it may see, understand and remember the reasons which determine the personality that acts. Just study yourself as you live from day to day, my dear Last. Imitate your associate who I complimented a moment ago. Let yourself be hypnotized. What's that? You have tried it already? Not sufficiently, then, not sufficiently!"
Mr. Smith continues his round and enters the reporters' hall. Here 1500 reporters, in their respective places, facing an equal number of telephones, are communicating to the subscribers the news of the world as gathered during the night. The organization of this matchless service has often been described. Besides his telephone, each reporter, as the reader is aware, has in front of him a set of commutators, which enable him to communicate with any desired telephotic line. Thus the subscribers not only hear the news but see the occurrences. When an incident is described that is already past, photographs of its main features are transmitted with the narrative. And there is no confusion withal. The reporters' items, just like the different stories and all the other component parts of the journal, are classified automatically according to an ingenious system, and reach the hearer in due succession. Furthermore, the hearers are free to listen only to what interests them. They may at pleasure pay attention to one editor and ignore another.
Mr. Smith next addresses one of the ten reporters in the astronomical department--a department still in the embryonic stage, but which will yet play an important part in journalism.
"Well, Cash, what's the news?"
"We have phototelegrams from Mercury, Venus, and Mars."
"Are those from Mars of any interest?"
"Yes, indeed. There is a revolution in the Central Empire."
"Nothing as yet. We cannot quite understand their signals. Perhaps ours do not reach them."
"That's bad," exclaims Mr. Smith, as he hurries away, not in the best of humor, toward the hall of scientific editors. Heads bent over their electric computers, 30 scientific men are absorbed in transcendental calculations. Mr. Smith's arrival is like the falling of a bomb among them.
"Well, gentlemen, what is this I hear? No answer from Jupiter? Is it always to be thus? Come, Cooley, you have worked now 10 years on this problem, and yet--"
"True enough," replies the man addressed. "Our science of optics is still defective, and though our mile-and-three-quarter telescopes--"
"Listen to that, Peer," breaks in Mr. Smith, turning to a second scientist. "Optical science defective! Optical science is your specialty. But," he continues, again addressing William Cooley, "failing with Jupiter, are we getting any results from the moon?"
"The case is no better there."
"This time you cannot lay the blame on the science of optics. The moon is immeasurably closer than Mars, yet with Mars our communication is fully established. I presume you will not say you lack telescopes?"
"Telescopes? Oh no, the trouble here is about--inhabitants!"
"That's it," adds Peer.
"So, then, the moon is positively uninhabited?" asks Mr. Smith.
"At least," answers Cooley, "on the face which she presents to us. As for the opposite side, who knows?"
"Ah, the opposite side! You think, then," remarks Mr. Smith, musingly, "that if one could but--"
"Why, turn the moon about-face."
"Ah, there's something in that," cry the two men at once. And indeed, so confident is their air, they seem certain of the success of such an undertaking.
"Meanwhile," asks Mr. Smith, after a moment's silence, "have you no news of interest today?"
"Indeed we have," answers Cooley. "The elements of Olympus are definitely settled. That great planet gravitates beyond Neptune at a mean distance of 11,400,799,642 miles from the sun, and to traverse its vast orbit takes 1311 years, 294 days, 12 hours, 43 minutes, 9 seconds."
"Why didn't you tell me that sooner?" cries Mr. Smith. "Inform the reporters of this straightway. You know how eager public curiosity is about these astronomical questions. That news must go into today's issue."
When Mr. Smith today enters the sky-advertising department, he finds the operators sitting with folded arms at their motionless projectors, and inquires as to the cause of their inaction. In response, the man addressed simply points to the sky, which is a pure blue. "Yes," mutters Mr. Smith, "a cloudless sky! That's too bad, but what's to be done? Shall we produce rain? That we might do, but is it of any use? What we need is clouds, not rain. Go," says he, addressing the head engineer, "go see Mr. Samuel Mark, of the meteorological division in the scientific department, and tell him for me to go to work in earnest on the question of artificial clouds. It will never do for us to be always at the mercy of cloudless skies!"
Mr. Smith's daily tour through the several departments of his newspaper is now finished. Next, from the advertisement hall he passes to the reception chamber, where the ambassadors accredited to the American government await a word of counsel or advice from the all-powerful editor. A discussion is going on as he enters. "Your Excellency will pardon me," the French Ambassador is saying to the Russian, "but I see nothing in the map of Europe that requires change. 'The North for the Slavs?' Why, yes, of course; but the South for the Latins. Our common frontier, the Rhine, it seems to me, serves very well. Besides, my government, as you must know, will firmly oppose every movement, not only against Paris, our capital, or our two great prefectures, Rome and Madrid, but also against the kingdom of Jerusalem, the dominion of Saint Peter, of which France means to be the trusty defender."
"Well said!" exclaims Mr. Smith. "How is it," he asks, turning to the Russian ambassador, "that you Russians are not content with your vast empire, the most extensive in the world, stretching from the banks of the Rhine to the Celestial Mountains and the Kara-Korum, whose shores are washed by the Frozen Ocean, the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the Indian Ocean? And what use are threats? Is war possible in view of modern inventions--asphyxiating shells capable of being projected a distance of 60 miles, an electric spark of 90 miles, that can at one stroke annihilate a battalion; to say nothing of the plague, the cholera, the yellow fever, that the belligerents might spread among their antagonists mutually, and which would in a few days destroy the greatest armies?"
"True," answered the Russian, "but we Russians, pressed on our eastern frontier by the Chinese, must at any cost put forth our strength for an effort toward the west."
"Let's solve your problem at the source," said Mr. Smith. "I will speak to the Secretary of State about this. The attention of the Chinese government will be brought to the matter, and the situation corrected."
"Under these conditions, of course--" And the Russian ambassador declares himself satisfied.
"Ah, Sir John, what can I do for you?" asks Mr. Smith as he turns to the representative of the people of Great Britain, who till now has remained silent.
"A great deal," comes the reply. "If the Earth Chronicle would but open a campaign on our behalf--"
"And for what object?"
"Simply for the annulment of the Act of Congress annexing to the United States the British islands."
By a just turnabout, Great Britain has become a colony of the United States, but the English are not yet reconciled to their status. At regular intervals they are ever addressing to the American government vain complaints.
"A campaign against the annexation that has been an accomplished fact for 150 years!" exclaims Mr. Smith. "How can you believe I would do anything so unpatriotic?"
"We at home think your people must now be sated. The Monroe Doctrine is fully applied; the whole of America belongs to the Americans. What more do you want? Besides, we will pay for what we ask."
"Indeed!" answers Mr. Smith, without manifesting the slightest irritation. "Well, you English will ever be the same. No, no, Sir John, don't count on me for help. Give up our fairest province, Britain? Why not ask France generously to renounce possession of Africa, that magnificent colony the complete conquest of which cost her the labor of 800 years? You will be well received!"
"You decline! All is over then!" the British agent murmurs sadly. "The United Kingdom falls to the share of the Americans; the Indies to that of--"
"The Russians," Mr. Smith completes the sentence.
"Has an independent government."
"Then nothing at all remains for us!" sighs Sir John, downcast.
"Nothing?" asks Mr. Smith, laughing. "Well, now, there's Gibraltar!"
With this sally the audience ends. The clock is striking 12, the hour of breakfast. Mr. Smith returns to his chamber. Where the bed stood in the morning a table all spread comes up through the floor. For Mr. Smith, being above all a practical man, has reduced the problem of existence to its simplest terms. For him, instead of the endless suites of apartments of yesteryear, one room fitted with ingenious mechanical contrivances is enough. Here he sleeps, takes his meals--in short, lives.
He seats himself. In the mirror of the phonotelephote is visible the same chamber at Paris which appeared in it this morning. A table furnished forth is likewise in readiness here, for notwithstanding the difference in hours, Mr. Smith and his wife have arranged to take their meals simultaneously. It is delightful thus to breakfast tete-a-tete with someone 3000 miles or so away. Just now, Mrs. Smith's chamber has no occupant.
"She is late! Woman's punctuality! Progress everywhere except there!" mutters Mr. Smith as he turns the tap for the first dish. For like all wealthy folk in our day, Mr. Smith has done away with the domestic kitchen and is a subscriber to the Grand Alimentation Company, which sends through a vast network of tubes to subscribers' residences all sorts of dishes, as a varied assortment is always in readiness. A subscription costs money, to be sure, but the cuisine is of the best, and the system has this advantage, that it does away with the pestering race of the cordons bleus. Mr. Smith receives and eats, all alone, the hors d'oeuvres, entrees, roast meat, and legumes that constitute the repast. He is just finishing the dessert when Mrs. Smith appears in the telephote mirror.
"Why, where have you been?" asks Mr. Smith through the telephone.
"What! You are already at the dessert? Then I am late," she exclaims, with winsome naivete. "Where have I been, you ask? Why, at my dressmaker's. The hats are just lovely this season! I suppose I forgot to note the time, and so am a little late."
"Yes, a little," growls Mr. Smith; "so little that I have already quite finished breakfast. Excuse me if I leave you now, but I must be going."
"Oh certainly, my dear; goodbye till evening."
Smith steps into his air-coach, which awaits him at a window. "Where do you wish to go, sir?" inquires the coachman.
"Let me see; I have three hours," Mr. Smith muses. "Jack, take me to my accumulator works at Niagara."
For Mr. Smith has obtained a lease of the great falls of Niagara. For ages the energy developed by the falls went unutilized. Smith, applying Jackson's invention, now collects this energy, and sells it. His visit to the works takes longer than anticipated. It is four o'clock when he returns home, just in time for the daily audience he grants to callers.
One readily understands how a man in Smith's situation must be beset with requests of all kinds. Now it is an inventor needing capital; then it is some visionary who comes to advocate a brilliant scheme which must surely yield millions in profits. A choice must be made between these projects, rejecting the worthless, examining the questionable, accepting the meritorious. To this work Mr. Smith devotes two full hours a day.
The callers are fewer today than usual--just 12. Of these, eight have only impracticable schemes to propose. In fact, one of them wants to revive painting, an art fallen into desuetude owing to the progress made in color photography. Another, a physician, boasts that he has discovered a cure for nasal catarrh! These impracticalities are dismissed in short order. Of the four projects favorably received, the first is that of a young man whose broad forehead betokens his intellectual power.
"Sir, I am a chemist," he begins, "and as such I come to you."
"Once the elementary bodies," says the young chemist, "were held to be 62 in number; a century ago they were reduced to 10; now only three remain irresolvable, as you are aware."
"Well, sir, these also I will show to be composite. In a few months, a few weeks, I shall have succeeded in solving the problem. Indeed, it may take only a few days."
"Then, sir, I shall simply have determined the absolute. All I want is money enough to carry my research to a successful conclusion."
"Very well," says Mr. Smith. "And what will be the practical outcome of your discovery?"
"The practical outcome? Why, that we shall be able to produce easily all bodies whatever--stone, wood, metal, fibers--"
"And flesh and blood?" interrupts Mr. Smith. "Do you pretend that you expect to manufacture a human being out and out?"
Mr. Smith advances $100,000 to the young chemist, and engages his services for the Earth Chronicle laboratory.
The second of the four successful applicants, starting from experiments made so long ago as the 19th century and again and again repeated, has conceived the idea of moving an entire city all at once from one place to another. His particular interest is the city of Granton, situated, as everyone knows, some 15 miles inland. He proposes transporting the city on rails, turning it into a beachfront resort. The profit, of course, would be enormous. Mr. Smith, captivated by the scheme, buys a half-interest in it.
"As you are aware, sir," begins applicant No. 3, "by the aid of our solar and terrestrial accumulators and transformers, we are able to make all the seasons the same. I propose to do something better still. Transform into heat a portion of the surplus energy at our disposal; send this heat to the poles; then the polar regions, relived of their snowcaps, will become a vast territory available for man's use. What think you of the scheme?"
"Leave your plans with me, and come back in a week. I will have them examined in the meantime."
Finally, the fourth announces the imminent solution of a weighty scientific problem. Everyone remembers the bold experiment made 100 years ago by Dr. Nathaniel Faithburn. The doctor, being a firm believer in human hibernation--in other words, the possibility of our suspending our vital functions and of calling them into action again after a time--resolved to subject the theory to a practical test. To this end, having first made his last will and pointed out the proper method of awakening him; having also directed that his sleep was to continue a hundred years to a day from the date of his apparent death, he unhesitatingly put the theory to the proof in his own person. Reduced to the condition of a mummy, Dr. Faithburn was coffined and laid in a tomb. Time went on. September 25th, 2889 being the day set for his resurrection, it is proposed that Mr. Smith permit the second part of the experiment to be performed at his residence this evening.
"Agreed. Be here at 10 o'clock," answers Mr. Smith; and with that the day's audience is closed.
Left to himself, feeling tired, he lies down on an extension chair. Then, touching a knob, he establishes communication with the Central Concert Hall, whence our greatest maestros send out to subscribers their delightful successions of accords determined by recondite algebraic formulas. Night approaches. Entranced by the harmony, forgetful of the hour, Smith does not notice that it is growing dark. Indeed, it is quite dark when the sound of a door opening arouses him. "Who is there?" he asks, touching a commutator.
Suddenly, in consequence of the vibrations produced, the air becomes luminous. The room fills with light, and Smith recognizes his visitor.
"Ah! You, Doctor?"
"Yes," is the reply. "How are you?"
"I am feeling well."
"Good! Let me see your tongue. All right! Your pulse. Regular! And your appetite?"
"Only passably good."
"Yes, the stomach. There's the rub. You are overworked. If your stomach is out of repair, it must be mended. That requires study. We must think about it."
"In the meantime," says Mr. Smith, "you will dine with me."
As in the morning, the table rises out of the floor. Again, as in the morning, the food-pipes supply soup, roast, ragouts, and legumes. Toward the close of the meal, phonotelephotic communication is made with Paris. Smith sees his wife, seated alone at the dinner table, looking anything but pleased at her loneliness.
"Pardon me, my dear, for having left you alone," he says through the telephone. "Dr. Wilkins is here."
"Ah, the good doctor!" remarks Mrs. Smith, her countenance lighting up.
"Yes. But, pray, when are you coming home?"
"Very well. Do you come by tube or by air-train?"
"Oh, by tube."
"Yes; and at what hour will you arrive?"
"About eleven, I suppose."
"Eleven by Centropolis time, you mean?"
"Goodbye, then, for a little while," says Mr. Smith as he severs communication with Paris.
Dinner over, Dr. Wilkins wishes to depart. "I shall expect you at ten," says Mr. Smith. "Today, it seems, is the day for the return to life of the famous Dr. Faithburn. You did not think of it, I suppose. The awakening is to take place here in my house. You must come and see. I shall depend on your being here."
"I will return," answers Dr. Wilkins.
Left alone, Mr. Smith busies himself with examining his accounts--a task of vast magnitude, the transactions involving a daily expenditure of over $800,000. Fortunately, indeed, the stupendous progress of mechanic art in modern times makes it comparatively easy. Thanks to the Piano Electro-Reckoner, the most complex calculations can be made in a few seconds. In two hours Mr. Smith completes his task--and just in time. Scarcely has he turned the last page when Dr. Wilkins arrives. After him comes Dr. Faithburn's body, escorted by a numerous company of men of science. They commence work at once. The casket is laid in the middle of the room, the telephote readied. The outer world, already notified, is anxiously expectant, for the whole world will witness the performance. A reporter meanwhile, like the chorus in an ancient drama, explains it all viva voce through the telephone.
So it is. Faithburn is dead, quite certainly dead! "Here is a method that needs improvement," remarks Mr. Smith to Dr. Wilkins, as the scientific committee on hibernation carries the casket out. "So much for that experiment. But if poor Faithburn is dead, at least he is sleeping," he continued. "I wish I could get some sleep. I am tired out, Doctor, quite tired out! Don't you think a bath would refresh me?"
"Certainly. But you must wrap yourself up well before you go out into the hallway. You must not expose yourself to cold."
"Hallway? Why, Doctor, as you well know, everything is done by machinery here. It is not for me to go to the bath; the bath will come to me. Just look!" He presses a button. After a few seconds a faint rumbling is heard, growing louder and louder. Suddenly the door opens, and the tub appears.
Such, in the year 2889, is the history of one day in the life of the editor
of the Earth Chronicle. And the history of that one day is the history of
365 days every year, except leap years, and then of 366 days--for as yet no
means has been found of increasing the length of the terrestrial year.
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