The past future

“Hajmáskér after 100 years” (in another version of the same card: “in 1940”). Postcard around 1900. On Hajmáskér, the largest garrison town of Central Europe, see the detailed post of the Falanster blog (in Hungarian)

“When the aerodromon arrived over the battery, it repeated the “warning” it had given to the enemy when it annihilated the anastater: it sent down an electric spark of its detonator, which went straight into the cartridge box of the Rodman cannon. The cannon immediately exploded. The aerodromon flew on, and within a few minutes, when electricity accumulated again in its condenser, it returned and by continuing so, within thirty minutes it exploded the cartridge boxes of all the cannons. Lightning is always well aimed: the cartridge and bomb are made of iron, so that it will certainly find them. However, the gunners and commanders already watched it only from afar. Everyone fled and left all cannons and gunpowder chariots alone.”
Mór Jókai: A jövő század regénye (The novel of the next century), 1872-74. The story takes place in 2000.


The fantasizing over the dazzling technical possibilities of the future at the fingertips, which thrilled the European and American public at the sight of the seemingly endless technological development and the novels by Jules Verne in the late 19th century, found its cheap and popular medium among others in the illustrated postcards.

One often used option for the detailed presentation of the expected technological achievements was the postcard series whose single items were packed with some food – coffee, nutritive, sugar, etc. – to encourage the buyer to collect the complete series, thus indeed creating a future for the distribution company. Such as this series of 1910, recently presented by the site of the French National Library in a special exhibition.


In Germany it was among others the Hildebrand cocoa and chocolate factory which enclosed such postcards with its boxes. A dozen of them were published some years ago by a collector on the Paleofuture blog.


But the futuristic images which kept the public in excitement were also successfully combined with the most important postcard genre, the city views. So one could send from the holiday a postcard representing the same place several years later, in which perhaps the time of delivery was also wisely calculated. Such city views updated with flying objects seem to have appeared first in the United States sometime in the early 1900s. A collector writes on the Postcard Collector forum that the “In The Future” series was mainly published on cities of New England by Frank Swallow, Execter NH and a GMCCO (black and white), as well as Reichner Bros. and W. B. Hale (color), and that he has more of 300 of them in his collection. We,  however, could collect only about a tenth of this number from various philatelic sites.


The fashion of the city views pushed forward in the future also spread to Europe, and they apparently used the same montage elements to them. This far we  have found only a dozen of such postcards on philatelic sites, mainly from German territories, but there was surely more. It seems to be a German (and Swiss) characteristics that even popular hiking places were represented in this way.


However, where this type of card was a really great fashion, it was surprisingly Hungary. The publisher Károly Divald who, moving from Eperjes (Prešov) to Budapest, after 1896 became the country’s largest publisher of city views, issued a comprehensive series of postcards on Hungarian places at the same time of the American series and using its montage elements. We have managed to collect more than fifty of them from various philatelic and historical sites, but the many small settlements included among them (and the many great ones not included!) suggest that there could be many more – if you know of any, please write us! Some places had two postcards, and Kőszeg near the western border even three, one of them being the aforementioned German “future mountain hiking” type. We present the hitherto collected cards placed on the map of Hungary from 1914.


The map can be downloaded in high resolution (7 MB). On the top my grand-aunt wrote her name in pearly letters at the beginning of the school on 1 September 1917. Not long before this future definitely became past.