History and Historiography

12 predictions from 1900 that are frighteningly accurate

Sometimes — most times — our predictions of the future are hilariously wrong. (Looking at you, whale bus.)But sometimes people get it frighteningly right, as J. Elfreth Watkins, a civil engineer from the 19th century, did. Watkins made over a dozen lofty predictions about the future and was off-base on only a small number of them. Here are Watkins’ predictions, published in a 1900 issue of Ladies’ Home Journal under the title “What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years.”

watkins predictions

“Americans will be taller by 1 to 2 inches.”

tallest and shortest people

Luke MacGregor/Reuters


On average, 21-year-old males are 1 1/2 inches taller today than they were in 1912. Females are about half an inch taller. The steady increase in height is due largely to an improved diet. We are consuming more protein, vitamins, and minerals than we were in centuries past. Also, thanks to advances in medical technology, we can stop diseases from taking over our bodies and preventing those important nutrients from getting absorbed.

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