JF Ptak Science Books Post 2685
Gov. Jerry Brown (D, CA) once had a vision of getting rid of nuclear waste--load it into rockets and shoot it into space. Dumping radioactive materials in the sky was at least a novel idea though not a very good one, what with the possibility of imperfection built into sending the highly dangerous material from the ground and out of orbit. He was not the first to suggest getting rid of unwantables (excluding burning things) in the sky.
An earlier and perhaps weirder (though I doubt it) idea came in a section of this image of the future, found in the pages of Puck magazine in 1910. The illustrator, J.S. Pughe1, had a pretty high time picturing the future, and was probably half-right, in a way. The cartoon came out at the time that the Panama Canal was under constructed (it was completed in 1914), and Pughe thought that--given the new advances in flight in the few years following the Wright's first heavier than air flight--the canal would be made obsolete in short order. To that end he depicted what might be a common use of the airship, the most prominent being the touring vessel, offering its passengers a true "bird's-eye" view of whatever there was to see. There's also the Cong Air Line just below it, dinghy in tow, and an conventioneer airship for "Hughie Ginty" whatever that might be. There's also a floating battleship, and up in the left-top corner there is a way off course Staten Island Ferry, thousands of miles from home, having missed its visual clues in navigating the Narrows. Oddly there are no depictions of freight aircraft, which is probably themost essential aspect of the canal (after military purposes).
Overall, it is a pretty light-hearted view of the future. we even seen a "water-wagon" floating on by, filled to capacity with people with generally non-committal expressions. I do believe that this is the famous "wagon" onto which people with a drinking problem would ride on the road to sobriety. One version of the "on the wagon" expression dates back to the late 19th c and the Salvation Army, the members of which would drive a wagon looking for folks in need of cleaner leaving and a perhaps-salvation, offering them a ride back to headquarter/church/whatever and the promise of drinking water and not booze. It is I think that this interpretation of this particular water wagon being a sobriety ride is hammered down when you look closely at the face of the guy falling off the wagon, because he looks to be happy and a little on the drunky side of things.
There's some dark bits to this haphazard scene as well. There seem to be a lot of falling people. At least six people are headed down, including a couple at top-right in a rowboat under a failed balloon (with a sky-cop in pursuit), and another person falling with his failed bird wings. For a whimsical peep into a contentious future, the artist may have decided to add an aerial version of the commonplace tragedy of being run over by a streetcar.
The oddest thing, though (and this gets us back to Jerry Brown) is the much-magnified "N.Y. Street Cleaning Department" dumping refuse over the side of an airship (of unknown propulsion and engineering). Perhaps the artist decided that In The Future the use of the sky will be so commonplace that people will use it as they had streams and harbors and other bodies of water--as a dumping ground. On the other hand maybe it is just showing that this is exactly what is happening, again, only from a height, and into the Panama Canal.
[Image source: Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/resource/ppmsca.26030/ My details are taken from the 132 meg download available on their site.]
- John Samuel Pughe, Welsh-born U.S. artist, 1870-1909. He joined Puck in 1894 and worked there until his early death in 1909. Puck, v. 59, no. 1509 (1906 January 31), centerfold.
Before writing this post script this blog entry ended at 713 words--that's the final tally of Babe Ruth's home runs, which is a good place to end.