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In the Year 2889

Jules Verne

  Produced by Norm Wolcott

  IN THE YEAR 2889

  [Redactor's note: _In the Year 2889_ was first published in the_Forum_, February, 1889; p. 262. It was published in France the nextyear. Although published under the name of Jules Verne, it is nowbelieved to be chiefly if not entirely the work of Jules' son, MichelVerne. In any event, many of the topics in the article echo Verne'sideas.]

  IN THE YEAR 2889.

  Little though they seem to think of it, the people of this twenty-ninthcentury live continually in fairyland. Surfeited as they are withmarvels, they are indifferent in presence of each new marvel. To themall seems natural. Could they but duly appreciate the refinements ofcivilization in our day; could they but compare the present with thepast, and so better comprehend the advance we have made! How much fairerthey would find our modern towns, with populations amounting sometimesto 10,000,000 souls; their streets 300 feet wide, their houses 1000 feetin height; with a temperature the same in all seasons; with their linesof aerial locomotion crossing the sky in every direction! If they wouldbut picture to themselves the state of things that once existed, whenthrough muddy streets rumbling boxes on wheels, drawn by horses--yes, byhorses!--were the only means of conveyance. Think of the railroads ofthe olden time, and you will be able to appreciate the pneumatic tubesthrough which to-day one travels at the rate of 1000 miles an hour.Would not our contemporaries prize the telephone and the telephote morehighly if they had not forgotten the telegraph?

  Singularly enough, all these transformations rest upon principles whichwere perfectly familiar to our remote ancestors, but which theydisregarded. Heat, for instance, is as ancient as man himself;electricity was known 3000 years ago, and steam 1100 years ago. Nay, soearly as ten centuries ago it was known that the differences between theseveral chemical and physical forces depend on the mode of vibration ofthe etheric particles, which is for each specifically different. When atlast the kinship of all these forces was discovered, it is simplyastounding that 500 years should still have to elapse before men couldanalyze and describe the several modes of vibration that constitutethese differences. Above all, it is singular that the mode ofreproducing these forces directly from one another, and of reproducingone without the others, should have remained undiscovered till less thana hundred years ago. Nevertheless, such was the course of events, for itwas not till the year 2792 that the famous Oswald Nier made this greatdiscovery.

  Truly was he a great benefactor of the human race. His admirablediscovery led to many another. Hence is sprung a pleiad of inventors,its brightest star being our great Joseph Jackson. To Jackson we areindebted for those wonderful instruments the new accumulators. Some ofthese absorb and condense the living force contained in the sun's rays;others, the electricity stored in our globe; others again, the energycoming from whatever source, as a waterfall, a stream, the winds, etc.He, too, it was that invented the transformer, a more wonderfulcontrivance still, which takes the living force from the accumulator,and, on the simple pressure of a button, gives it back to space inwhatever form may be desired, whether as heat, light, electricity, ormechanical force, after having first obtained from it the work required.From the day when these two instruments were contrived is to be datedthe era of true progress. They have put into the hands of man a powerthat is almost infinite. As for their applications, they are numberless.Mitigating the rigors of winter, by giving back to the atmosphere thesurplus heat stored up during the summer, they have revolutionizedagriculture. By supplying motive power for aerial navigation, they havegiven to commerce a mighty impetus. To them we are indebted for thecontinuous production of electricity without batteries or dynamos, oflight without combustion or incandescence, and for an unfailing supplyof mechanical energy for all the needs of industry.

  Yes, all these wonders have been wrought by the accumulator and thetransformer. And can we not to them also trace, indirectly, this latestwonder of all, the great "Earth Chronicle" building in 253d Avenue,which was dedicated the other day? If George Washington Smith, thefounder of the Manhattan "Chronicle", should come back to life to-day,what would he think were he to be told that this palace of marble andgold belongs to his remote descendant, Fritz Napoleon Smith, who, afterthirty generations have come and gone, is owner of the same newspaperwhich his ancestor established!

  For George Washington Smith's newspaper has lived generation aftergeneration, now passing out of the family, anon coming back to it. When,200 years ago, the political center of the United States was transferredfrom Washington to Centropolis, the newspaper followed the governmentand assumed the name of Earth Chronicle. Unfortunately, it was unable tomaintain itself at the high level of its name. Pressed on all sides byrival journals of a more modern type, it was continually in danger ofcollapse. Twenty years ago its subscription list contained but a fewhundred thousand names, and then Mr. Fritz Napoleon Smith bought it fora mere trifle, and originated telephonic journalism.

  Every one is familiar with Fritz Napoleon Smith's system--a system madepossible by the enormous development of telephony during the lasthundred years. Instead of being printed, the Earth Chronicle is everymorning spoken to subscribers, who, in interesting conversations withreporters, statesmen, and scientists, learn the news of the day.Furthermore, each subscriber owns a phonograph, and to this instrumenthe leaves the task of gathering the news whenever he happens not to bein a mood to listen directly himself. As for purchasers of singlecopies, they can at a very trifling cost learn all that is in the paperof the day at any of the innumerable phonographs set up nearlyeverywhere.

  Fritz Napoleon Smith's innovation galvanized the old newspaper. In thecourse of a few years the number of subscribers grew to be 80,000,000,and Smith's wealth went on growing, till now it reaches the almostunimaginable figure of $10,000,000,000. This lucky hit has enabled himto erect his new building, a vast edifice with four _facades_ each 3,250feet in length, over which proudly floats the hundred-starred flag ofthe Union. Thanks to the same lucky hit, he is to-day king ofnewspaperdom; indeed, he would be king of all the Americans, too, ifAmericans could ever accept a king. You do not believe it? Well, then,look at the plenipotentiaries of all nations and our own ministersthemselves crowding about his door, entreating his counsels, begging forhis approbation, imploring the aid of his all-powerful organ. Reckon upthe number of scientists and artists that he supports, of inventors thathe has under his pay.

  Yes, a king is he. And in truth his is a royalty full of burdens. Hislabors are incessant, and there is no doubt at all that in earlier timesany man would have succumbed under the overpowering stress of the toilwhich Mr. Smith has to perform. Very fortunately for him, thanks to theprogress of hygiene, which, abating all the old sources ofunhealthfulness, has lifted the mean of human life from 37 up to 52years, men have stronger constitutions now than heretofore. Thediscovery of nutritive air is still in the future, but in the meantimemen today consume food that is compounded and prepared according toscientific principles, and they breathe an atmosphere freed from themicro-organisms that formerly used to swarm in it; hence they livelonger than their forefathers and know nothing of the innumerablediseases of olden times.

  Nevertheless, and notwithstanding these considerations, Fritz NapoleonSmith's mode of life may well astonish one. His iron constitution istaxed to the utmost by the heavy strain that is put upon it. Vain theattempt to estimate the amount of labor he undergoes; an example alonecan give an idea of it. Let us then go about with him for one day as heattends to his multifarious concernments. What day? That matters little;it is the same every day. Let us then take at random September 25th ofthis present year 2889.

  This morning Mr. Fritz Napoleon Smith awoke in very bad humor. His wifehaving left for France eight days ago, he was feeling disconsolate.Incredible though
it seems, in all the ten years since their marriage,this is the first time that Mrs. Edith Smith, the professional beauty,has been so long absent from home; two or three days usually suffice forher frequent trips to Europe. The first thing that Mr. Smith does is toconnect his phonotelephote, the wires of which communicate with hisParis mansion. The telephote! Here is another of the great triumphs ofscience in our time. The transmission of speech is an old story; thetransmission of images by means of sensitive mirrors connected by wiresis a thing but of yesterday. A valuable invention indeed, and Mr. Smiththis morning was not niggard of blessings for the inventor, when by itsaid he was able distinctly to see his wife notwithstanding the distancethat separated him from her. Mrs. Smith, weary after the ball or thevisit to the theater the preceding night, is still abed, though it isnear noontide at Paris. She is asleep, her head sunk in the lace-coveredpillows. What? She stirs? Her lips move. She is dreaming perhaps? Yes,dreaming.