Men Who Plan Beyond Tomorrow!

How 1940s whiskey ads predicted the cell phone, the 3D movie, videoconferencing, and sports bars...and a bunch of stuff that hasn't happened yet.

Posted by  | Sunday, January 3, 2010

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Back in the mid-1940s, Seagram’s advertised its VO Canadian whiskey with a series of extremely manly magazine ads about “Men Who Plan Beyond Tomorrow”–unspecified futuristic thinkers who liked the fact that Seagram’s was patient enough to age VO for six years. No, it doesn’t make much sense to me, either. But the ads, each of which depicted a different miracle that would transform postwar America, are glorious. They’re entertaining when they sort-of-accurately predict scenarios that eventually came to be, such as the rise of the cell phone. And they’re even more so when they marvel at wonders-to-be such as coin-operated streetcorner fax machines. Herewith, some highlights as they appeared in LIFE magazine–click the dates to see the issues with the ads at Google Books.



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95 Comments For This Post

  1. Patrick Says:

    The reason why the people (men) in the sportsbar prototype of 1946 are all watching hockey on the big screens is that Seagrams is a Canadian company and 1946 Canada was the dominant force in hockey worldwide. Actually, in 2010, Canada is still the team to beat in world hockey.

  2. Harry McCracken Says:

    Duh, I shoulda been able to figure that out!

    –Harry

  3. devans00 Says:

    Should we women be scared that the typical street scene in Shopping Comfort (October 1945) #10 only shows white men in suits?

    Where did the rest of us go?

  4. tele2002 Says:

    Wasn't it Nostradamus that predicted all of these way before any ad man got involved!

  5. Harry McCracken Says:

    There are women in this future–we know because one of the breakthroughs involves delivering fresh meals to housewives who don’t have servants. But yes, the ads do seem to depict a society mostly inhabited by white men in suits. Ones who like Canadian whiskey, presumably.

    –Harry

  6. Dave Barnes Says:

    It is a good thing that women are not allowed to drink whiskey.

  7. John Dingler Says:

    A friend did the meals on wheels thing just recently.

  8. Leigh Anne Varney Says:

    I prefer to drink my whisky (spelled the TRUE Scottish way sans "e") straight up, early & often!

  9. MichaelT Says:

    The plants in the Arizona desert are probably cotton plants. In looking at the scale, they are HUGE cotton plants. Which, as anyone who ever watched Gilligan's Island knows, is how plants are affected when they are exposed to radiation.

  10. Bob Dudolevitch Says:

    It’s amazing that they could foresee the Sports Bar and HDTV, but not the goalie mask, or helmets {with visors} for forwards and defensemen.

  11. Doug Says:

    Bob beat me to it.

  12. iyenori Says:

    I don’t know about Nostradamus, but a good deal of this stuff appeared on the covers of Astounding Science Fiction in the 1930s, and earlier in utopian novels of the 1890s. Check Verne, Wells, and Edwsrd Bellamy’s efficiency-oriented “Looking Backward.”

    The lily-whiteness is typical. For an easy-reading checkup, look up a pre-1960s collection of cartoons from the New Yorker, Playboy, or Mad. Crowd scenes, cocktail-party scenes, bar scenes, ordinary-joe joke setup scenes–all pale enough for “Triumph of the Will.” Come to think, how many nonwhites were in “2001”?

  13. jeteye Says:

    Love the Nixon / Hoover reference!!! Really funny!

  14. jeteye Says:

    You know, for a bunch of ad men, they were pretty close on the majority of items (of course forgetting that women would actually be part of our future!!!). Anyway, the seem to be obsessed with shopping (OK the are ad men), but believe it or not, a lot of the Internet today could be a facsimile of what they were trying to convey. None the less, amazing how 60m years ago they were pretty close.

    About sports bars, what is the deal about hockey?

  15. stimpy Says:

    I don’t get why they thought the groceries on wheels thingy was futuristic.Helms bakery trucks had been delivering all manner of baked goods in trucks with large sliding drawers from which you could select individual items for decades. Good humor ice cream had horse drawn carts near the turn of the century. Milk men had been delivering all manner of dairy items since the 19th century, and just how old is Schwan’s food delivery service? even See’s candy had motorcycle delivery home delivery in the mid 20’s. DUH !

  16. Turnip Says:

    What? No mention in your page of the “hygienic lighting” in the office of the future offering a germ-free workplace? I didn’t realize that incandescent bulbs caused epidemics….

  17. hipshot Says:

    A lot of people forget Robert Anson Heinlein, the Dean of Science Fiction, who at the time predicted most, if not all of theses modern wonders is his great stories. Then there was Robert C. Clark.

  18. gahblah Says:

    Anyone know the name of the ad company that created this for Seagram?

  19. Timothy Says:

    Considering that at the time, TV was a pretty rounded square and movies were still mostly made in square formats (widescreen movies didn’t start being common until the 50s), that seems to me to be the most interesting thing about the whole sports bar concept!

  20. Stuart Says:

    Seconding Timothy – not only did they depart from the square format and rounded corners, but they got the 16:9 aspect ratio nearly exactly. Eerie.

    The Golden Rectangle strikes again. Thank you Fibonacci!

  21. Alan Brown Says:

    The odd thing is that moving walkways were operational in New York city in the late 19th century. Not a new concept by any measure.

  22. Bradley Thomson Says:

    when i get lazy cooking, i just order from food delivery services.;;”

  23. jack_sprat Says:

    The author wrote that Seagram's attributed the predictions to unnamed futurists. Back then, that may well have meant one of those two or any number of other SF writers. The power-via-lightning probably references (in a crude way that has the virtue of being intelligible to Joe Public) the rumours that Tesla had managed to prove a similar concept–and then kept it mostly to himself. (He'd had a bellyful of industrialists and capitalists by then.) Rand probably modeled her "shrugging" inventor at "White Motors" after this apocrypha.

    Given that Tesla invented virtually every meaningful aspect of the Electrical Age–while working 96 hours per week digging subway trenches by hand–I'm inclined to believe it, pretty much without reservation.

  24. jack_sprat Says:

    "…I can't explain why they're all watching hockey." I can.

    They're referencing what they and every American knew back in the day: Life in New York City. Hoops and Pro Football mattered not very much back then. Baseball was still a day game. What mattered was the fights, the track, and the Rangers. (As late as the early 70's, the latter were arguably a bigger deal the Knicks.) Guys like Frank and Dean got dressed up to see them at the Garden.

  25. jack_sprat Says:

    Why would you spend money hawking your wares to people who would not be buying them? Advertisers DISCRIMINATE by focusing on their audience; they're not by nature "change agents." However much we've been turned into "sheeple" by the heirs of Marshall MacLuhan.

  26. jack_sprat Says:

    You're not going to sell a lot of anything but rotgut, bomb shelters, and other survivalist gear by cueing your audience to their future emasculation. There were very few men then around who wouldn't have lost their lunches at the implications.

  27. jack_sprat Says:

    Oddly enough, women are also best enjoyed this way. Although SHE is welcome to experiment to a point.

  28. jack_sprat Says:

    It would have been considered vulgar, using sex to sell booze. Not upscale; plebeian. Not done by our sort.

  29. jack_sprat Says:

    Then again, these were "creative types," perhaps expressing their own preferences. "Sex in the City," but much more honestly gay. (There's NOTHING gay men like more than a bunch of attractive straight guys. We're the object of 90% + of their erotic fiction.)

  30. dholyer Says:

    Due you know why movies moved from square to wide screen, simple it made the viewing experiance more realistic and life like. The human eye has a wider field of view horizontally (left-right) than vertically (up-down). Just think how much fun the had with making The Wizard of OZ into a 1:2.261 them into a 16:9 screen.

    They can remake 4:3 TV into 16:9 but that will take computers to create the virtual 4:3 format world. Then artists to create the missing objects needed to fill the missing content. I wrote long explanations how when they started to re-master the 1966-69 Star Trek for Blue Ray Disks. It can be done but it is hard, it may be easier to get the government to change our tax system.

  31. dholyer Says:

    Back in 1975 as I stated High School I drew up this plan to use Ultra-violet lasers to create IONic vacuum tunnels through air to tap this static electric energy that was accumulating in the clouds and store the energy in giant decapitators (round oil storage tanks with a coiled metal sheet in a spiral to store the mega voltage) Then with transformers you could convert it to sell to the power companies.

    A similar process in reverse of your hand held UV laser pistol can channel a electric shock to a person just like a TASER does today.

    Rumor has it today the Army has a con tactless stun device, but from rumors it is an acoustical beam more like a Sonic Disruptor. You know like the Klingons used in Star Trek in the 60's

  32. dholyer Says:

    Very interesting visions from the WWII era, much of it from the 30's and Amazing Fiction Magazine/Books. The big question is this was authored before the Death of NASA on 1/15/2010 or the learning of the facts that at our current pace a Capitalization economy is on it's last breaths. And to be replaced with a system of the Feds provid every thing. And what they give you will become better as you empower them to more power with your votes.

    If we could erase these technology advancements it may actully be a nice choise to be able to live make in the free world of the 30's, 40's or even the 50's as the 60's gave us the Duck and Cover under your school desk when the air raid sirens went off. Then never look out the windows because the light will fry you like an ant under your magnifying glass.

    I remember those drills in K, 1st. 2nd, and 3rd grade. Actually 3rd grade we went to the school basement. They were the same as the tornado drills in Sioux Falls SD in 1967-8.

    What will the 2050 edition look like, and wait til they see the hairdo's of that time in the 1980's or the cloths of the 70's.

  33. The_Heraclitus Says:

    "In the future as envisioned by Seagram’s, atomic power will somehow make it possibly to build bountiful farms in the desert."

    Very possible. Nuc desalinization and pumping to the desert…

  34. Satya Says:

    This proves… to see the unseen, to predict the future – the mankind needs the help of whiskey. Now tell me, who is bigger than Einstein? :)

  35. Dan Says:

    Go Rangers !!

  36. wizarddrummer Says:

    great list; the folks that thought of that stuff should work for Microsoft; maybe they’d actually “invent” something original that works!

  37. Scott Says:

    Who is Robert C. Clark?
    Sure you don't mean Arthur C. Clarke?

  38. Mike C. Says:

    The admen @ Seagrams were more prescient than the editors of this article who failed to notice that the October 45 ad "shopping comfort" accurately predicted vice-president dick Cheney shooting ole what's-his-face in the store front diorama!

  39. Vic Says:

    I didn't see anyone walking around with their pants on the ground either!

  40. Arteli Says:

    In the very early '60s, in Winnipeg, Engelhardt (Sonny) Stelzer, modified 'stepvans' by installing Onan generators to power on-board freezers and microwave ovens (then known as 'Radar Ranges') and private channel communications between these vans and the commercial kitchen where a variety of meals were prepared and flash frozen. When a telephone order was placed at the office, it was relayed to the closest van. The driver took the items ordered from the freezer, put them in the microwave, set it to the predetermined time for the items, and drove immediately to the customer's house. Average time from call to piping hot delivery – 12 minutes. At that time, the latest innovation in lighted signs was the fluorescent plastic version replacing the neon signs. In Manitoba no lights were allowed on the sides of vehicles. Sonny obtained an exception and the vans all had fluorescent signs on tehm reading, 'Mom's Radar Kitchen' …

  41. James Says:

    In the UK it's very common to see fast food (kebabs, fish & chips etc.) prepared and sold from vans at the roadside. Some of these have regular routes which take them through residential areas. Not exactly gourmet cooking, but it is food prepared in a van on your doorstep.

  42. Sean Bradford Says:

    I noticed that too…very interesting ;)

  43. abdul Says:

    hmmm,,,,funny
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  44. Mary Says:

    Nice predictions, but I prefer Star Trek's future gadgets. Bring on the Holo-decks!

  45. Bandscheibe Says:

    There are certainly a lot of details like that to consider. That is a great point out bring up. I offer the ideas above as general inspiration but clearly you will discover questions like the just one you bring up where the most important thing will be working within honest good faith. I don? t know if best practices have emerged around stuff like that, but I am sure your job is clearly seen as a fair game. Both boys and girls feel the impact of just the moment’s pleasure, for the rest in their lives.

  46. Nijik Says:

    The author must not eat at gourmet food trucks, because the last one of the series (15 Traveling Kitchens Deliver Packaged Dinners) is what’s happening all across the US right now. There’s lots of amazingly good gourmet food trucks that will pull up in neighborhoods or business areas all throughout the day. Some even have mobile phone ordering services with systems like Yorder, and have bicycle delivery in a limited area around the truck.

    In general, this is a great look at the future…. from a past perspective and shows you that none of our ideas today are really that new, we just have the technology to make them reality now.

  47. NineChars Says:

    "Sorry to miss your call at 7:00 dick" I'd say the same thing if I was being called at 7:00am.

  48. Dominick A. Russo Says:

    "IT's" A FAX**TV !+ where that stiff Drink +

  49. Michael Hoffman Says:

    In regards to slide 15 Traveling Kitchens Deliver Packaged Dinners, I would imagine one would need the services of a traveling kitchen if they're too blitzed from drinking Seagram's VO to make dinner!

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  51. TomPeris Says:

    There are women in this future–we know because one of the breakthroughs involves delivering fresh meals to housewives who don't have servants. But yes, the ads do seem to depict a society mostly inhabited by white men in suits. Ones who like Canadian whiskey, presumably.
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  53. customized Dog Tags Says:

    Helms bakery trucks had been delivering all manner of baked goods in trucks with large sliding drawers from which you could select individual items for decades. Good humor ice cream had horse drawn carts near the turn of the century.

  54. TomPeris Says:

    They're referencing what they and every American knew back in the day: Life in New York City. Hoops and Pro Football mattered not very much back then. Baseball was still a day game. What mattered was the fights, the track, and the Rangers. (As late as the early 70's, the latter were arguably a bigger deal the Knicks.) Guys like Frank and Dean got dressed up to see them at the Garden.
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  57. Deendid Says:

    They're referencing what they and every American knew back in the day: Life in New York City. Hoops and Pro Football mattered not very much back then. Baseball was still a day game. What mattered was the fights, the track, and the Rangers. (As late as the early 70's, the latter were arguably a bigger deal the Knicks.) Guys like Frank and Dean got dressed up to see them at the Garden.
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  58. @acnMobility Says:

    The anonymous advertising creative who imagined the future 70 years ago was a phenomenal futurist. These whiskey ads were uncannily accurate in predicting everything from cell phones and video conferencing to flat screen TVs.

  59. TomPeris Says:

    The reason why the people (men) in the sportsbar prototype of 1946 are all watching hockey on the big screens is that Seagrams is a Canadian company and 1946 Canada was the dominant force in hockey worldwide. Actually, in 2010, Canada is still the team to beat in world hockey.

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