In 1986, when famed science fiction author Isaac Asimov chanced upon a delightful series of postcards dating from 1899, 1900, 1901 and 1910 France, he couldn’t believe his luck!
The postcards depicted scenes from a barely imagined future, then a distant figment of imagination. Of the 21st Century, imagined by French artists in the midst of the steam-powered industrial age.
The predictions on the postcards fell a long way from the mark, which is not surprising. The postcards were stuck in the milieu of the industrial age of mechanical cogs, telephones, steam powered engines, flight and a fascination for underwater adventures aided by early and primitive brass scuba gear of the era.
The postcards, of which 87 are now discovered were originally created by various artists to celebrate the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris, They are a whimsical look at the future that might have been, from the lost world of 19th Century Paris.
There is a curious and delightful steampunk edge to these postcards which jump out at you, it’s a vivid larger-than-life depiction of fantasy, the very stuff of sci-fi novels.
At the turn of the 20th Century, due to financial difficulties by the postcard distributor Jean-Marc Côté, these remarkable cards never actually saw the light of day and remained in a dusty stack somewhere.
It was by fortuitous chance that Asimov himself found them and published them in a set in 1986 with accompanying commentary in Futuredays: A Nineteenth Century Vision of the Year 2000.