‘Future Fantasy’ In 1930 Germany


German Engineering.

Those words have traditionally conjured up thoughts of quality and creativity. During the period of the Third Reich, physicists, scientists, and engineers were encouraged to stretch their imaginations and develop things that had previously been only dreamed of in science fiction.

While most people are familiar with the works carried out at the The Peenemünde Army Research Center – the birthplace of modern rocketry and spaceflight – very few people are aware of other areas of technological research that had been in progress during that time. A very hushed bit of technological history is the part where the United States and the Soviet Union obtained a wealth of information and designs while pillaging after the fall of the Third Reich. Much of that technological information was incomplete as the scientists and engineers attempted to either hide or destroy it in order to keep it from the victors’ hands.

Because the U.S. required German know-how in order to further develop these technologies the government instituted the now well known Operation Paperclip in which more than 1,500 German scientists, engineers, and technicians were brought to the United States from Nazi Germany and other countries for employment in the aftermath of World War II. The celebrated rocket scientist, Wernher von Braun, was one alumni from this class. A number of researchers contend that the big UFO phenomenon in the late 1940s and particularly in the 1950s was the result of projects originating at a remote detachment of Edwards Air Force Base within the Nevada Test and Training Range officially referred to as Restricted Area 4808 North (R-4808N) – popularly known as ‘Area 51’ aka ‘Groom Lake’. It was here that U.S. and Operation Paperclip members worked on the research and development of the German technologies discovered post conflict – including ‘flying disc’ engineering designs. A few of the recognized aircraft developed at Groom Lake are the A-12 OXCART, SR-71 Blackbird, and the F-117A Nighthawk – aircraft so advanced that CIA documents acknowledge that they account for dozens of UFO sightings over the years.

One last point relevant to the following pictorial presentation is that while the incredible research and inventions of the great scientist Nikola Tesla were marginalized and ignored in the U.S. due to moneyed interests, the Germans were very much interested in his advanced and forward thinking works. Tesla was passionate about wireless communications and ‘free energy’ – while theoretical physicists obsessed over Newtonian science, Tesla took an electric field and plasma (aether) energy approach. German tech developers seemed to take this approach to heart. One of the most storied and controversial projects of the Third Reich – one that Adolf Hitler counted on until the end – was ‘the secret weapon’ known as ‘Die Glocke’ (‘The Bell’). Some skeptics say that this bizarre anti-gravity device never existed, but there is increasing evidence that it had indeed been at an advanced stage of development previous to the fall of the Third Reich. From the schematics it appears to be very much a Tesla inspired technology.

Now to the fun part of this post. In 1930, a company known as True Wagner Margarine produced the third of a series of books designed as a display for a collection of stickers made available separately. In this book is a section called Future Fantasy. No artist or author is credited. The illustrations are beautiful, the technology is actually quite brilliant and not so far fetched. The book is called, Echte Wagner Margarine Album Nr. 3″, Serien 12 und 13 (Genuine Wagner Margarine Album Nr. 3″, series 12 and 13). It was published by Elmshorn in Holstein, Germany. With what is now known about the developments in German technology during this period, one could imagine that a lot of the designs and ideas presented might have been considered a bit more seriously than ‘fantasy’.

Echte Wagner Album Nr. 3 - Cover Image

Echte Wagner Margarine Album Nr. 3 – Cover Image

The Artificial Island

The Artificial Island – Since there is no island located on the shortest route to America which could serve the aircraft as a port of refuge, a good idea is to anchor an artificial landing place on the ocean. Of course, located on the island are hotels, spas, restaurants and a movie theater, so that the passengers have their convenience if a storm detains for several days on the island.

The Rocket Plane

The Rocket Plane – The aircraft of the future powered by rockets. The rockets are fitted at the stern of the vessel, which propel the aircraft forward through the recoil of the escaping gases. The aircraft shown here is just going to skim past the Nankoupaß and the ancient Great Wall Of China with 10000 kilograms of mail on the way from Berlin to Tokyo. Since it has an hourly rate of 1,000 km, it takes nearly 8 hours for the Berlin-Tokyo route. A steamer today needs about 50 days!

The Rocket Airships

The Rocket Airships – The rocket planes have assumed huge proportions and consist only of a pair of wings in the shape of a parabola. The lavishly decorated cabins are built into the wings and take 400 passengers. Because there is no hull, the control fins are located at the ends of the wings. The driver’s cab, from which the missiles are made to fire, is located in the middle of the air cruiser deck.

Private Aircraft With Nuclear Propulsion

Private Aircraft With Nuclear Propulsion – Here we have the opportunity to meet a plane nearby. Yes, where is the propeller? That was once! The aircraft rises vertically and settles down vertically. The motor is a small capsule, in which the atom fragmentation takes place. On the right is an aircraft and an aircraft parking garage.

A New Driving Force

A New Driving Force – To move loads forwards, one exploits the tremendous power that is released during the disintegration of atoms. All cars drive with only a tiny motor which is driven by nuclear power. The speed of cars has grown accordingly. In the divided road, take 200 to 300 kilometers through the city, on the major highways the speed of 1000 km speed per hour is not uncommon!

Wireless Home Phone and Television

Wireless Home Phone and Television – Each person now has their own transmitter and receiver and can converse on a certain wave with acquaintances and relatives. But the television technology has become so perfected that one can look the friends in the face at the same time. Transmitter and receiver are no longer bound to the location, but is carried in a box the size of a photo apparatus.

Landing Of A Spaceship On The Moon

Landing Of A Spaceship On The Moon – Is this not wrong? Shouldn’t the rockets ignite at the stern of the vessel and spew their fire back? No, it’s for accuracy! The ship is landing, and therefore it has brought the Retropackage to deploy and quickly reduce the frenzied speed. Now you can easily make the landing on the Moon.

Spaceship Post

Spaceship Post – Because there are rare minerals on the Moon, capital was formed in America with $20 billion by the MoMA-A.G. (Moon minerals yield A.G.), which maintains a busy space ship traffic. At the stopover, the ships renew their rocket fuel on the ports floating freely in space.

The images above are via Retro-Futurismus – to see more click here.

So Much Potential, So Little Will

A 21st Century Farm as imagined by Davis Meltzer.

A 21st Century Farm as imagined by Davis Meltzer. First appeared in National Geographic Magazine February 1970.

Fields stretch like fairways, cattle fatten in high-rise pens, threshed grain flows through pneumatic tubes into storage elevators, and a control tower oversees all.

National Geographic, No. 4, October 1998

Unlike a lot of the futuristic visions from the 20th Century, there’s still time for this idyll image to be realized. When looked at and contemplated for a bit some logistical questions do arise. But the allure is in the essence of the plan – a clean, well organized, efficient farming scheme where each city is provided fresh foods from just outside of town. It seems that whether or not this type of food production will ever be realized depends on factors that are not currently present in our time.

Illustration via impactdixon | Flickr

Exposing The Device – The Unbelievable ‘Miss Honeywell’


In the 1960s there was a flurry of electronic and computer innovation and breakthroughs. Near the end of the decade, in 1968, London, England, hosted a trade fair – the Instruments, Electronics and Automation Exhibition at the Olympia conference center. One would imagine that it should have been filled with all kinds of new and exciting examples of modern ingenuity. After a very thorough search through several databases, only one exhibit appears to have made an impression.

The video below is from the fantastic British Pathé collection on YouTube. It features Miss Honeywell – “a futuristic ‘robot girl’ demonstrating various pieces of equipment by computer company Honeywell Controls Ltd..” The commentator is skeptical. The observers seem fascinated.


Yes indeed. The commentator is correct – the man at the controls is illusionist Mark Wilson. Wilson has been credited as the man who brought stage magic innovation to television. He’s since had a very successful career, earned the title of Master Magician, and has been honored with numerous national and international magician awards by his peers. ‘Miss Honeywell’ was more than likely Wilson’s wife and longtime assistant, Nani Darnell.

It appears that the innovation that stole the show in 1968 wasn’t an electronic computerized automation at all – it was instead a dazzling low-tech illusionist invention. Below are two pages of Mark Wilson’s ‘APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR PRODUCING DISPLAY ILLUSIONS’ abstract. It was filed in January 1969 and was patented October 1971.

US Patent 3,612,516 Abstract

US Patent 3,612,516 Abstract  (Image via cyberneticzoo.com)

US Patent 3,612,516 Figures 1 and 2

US Patent 3,612,516 Figures 1 and 2  (Image via cyberneticzoo.com)

Just one last thing about the ‘robot girl’ – she wasn’t a one-trick-automaton. Wilson’s creation traveled to a number of exhibitions and trade shows. Earlier in ’68 she did a gig for Hamilton Beach as the highly efficient housecleaner ‘Roberta the Robot’ at the Home Furnishings Exposition in San Francisco. By 1970 she developed a glitzy glammish look and took to speaking French – La ‘femme robot ménager’ can be seen here.

Television Really Needs A Show Like ‘Atomic City’


There’s something so enjoyable about 1960s futurism and visual effects expert Markus Rothkranz has created a television show that celebrates it all. It’s a retro science fiction comedy called, Atomic City – and it looks grand. ‘Sexy’ with an ‘innocent charm’, it features ‘…super-luxury liners that fly through the air with stewardesses in mini skirts, deluxe posh monorails with swank lounges, floating restaurants, flying diners etc. Secret bases. Underground test sites. Convertible jet cars. Bikinis, Martinis and UFOs…’ It’s a ‘comedy adventure about private eye Stan Velvet uncovering secrets in a futuristic Vegas’.

Rothkranz’s Atomic City is a concept project developed with his company, Astro Films LLC. Located in Nevada, Astro Films ‘works outside of the Hollywood bureaucracy that bogs down so many films and projects with great ideas.’ The talented creatives involved with this motion picture and entertainment company believe that, ‘The time has come for a new artistic renaissance.’ For those who feel bored and uninspired by the same old tired television faire, let the revival begin!

Unfortunately, while being on the outside creatively is a great thing, it isn’t so much when trying to get picked up by a network. Atomic City has never found a home on television. The video below is an introduction to the pilot episode. There’s a lot of cool stuff to enjoy – if you’d like to see more you can check out the super Atomic City web site by clicking here.

For those wanting a little fun getaway to a simpler time, step aboard this futurama rocket ride to Tomorrowland!

The Future World According To Radebaugh

Arthur Radebaugh, 1906-1974

Arthur Radebaugh, 1906-1974

Arthur Radebaugh - Master of the Airbrush

Master of the Airbrush

He was born on 14 May 1906 in Coldwater, Michigan. After high school he moved to Illinois in 1925 and began his studies at the Chicago Art Institute. With the exception of the airbrush, it seems that the institute had little to offer this creative man. After all, art studies are exercises in reviewing the conventional, and this man didn’t seem the least bit interested in that. He left the school after one and a half years. In 1930 he returned to Michigan and worked various jobs as an illustrator. It wouldn’t be until 1935 that his unique talent, style, and vision would become recognized by the heavy hitters in the graphic arts industries. His name was Arthur Radebaugh and his particular artistic genius would become a symbol of an optimistic techno-utopia longed for by many post-WWII.

MoToR Magazine ANNUAL SHOW NUMBER - November 1935. Arthur Radebaugh's breakthrough cover illustration for which he was paid $450.00.

MoToR Magazine ANNUAL SHOW NUMBER – November 1935. Arthur Radebaugh’s breakthrough cover illustration for which he was paid $450.00.

From 1936 until 1942, Radebaugh’s distinct airbrushed illustrations adorned the covers of various magazines like Fortune, Esquire, the Saturday Evening Post, and others. His futuristic deco-style creations were displayed in adverts for Dodge, Bendix, United Air Lines, and more.

Saturday Evening Post Cover, September 20, 1941 - Arthur Rabenaugh Illustrator

Saturday Evening Post Cover, September 20, 1941 – Arthur Rabenaugh Illustrator

1937 Bendex Automotive and Aviation Products Promotional Poster - Arthur Radebaugh Illustrator

1937 Bendex Automotive and Aviation Products Promotional Poster – Arthur Radebaugh Illustrator

1938 National Hotel Management Co., Inc. Advert - Illustrator Arthur Rabenaught

1938 National Hotel Management Co., Inc. Advert – Arthur Radebaugh Illustrator

1939 Hercules Powder Company Advert - Arthur Radebaugh Illustrator

1939 Hercules Powder Company Advert – Arthur Radebaugh Illustrator

'Dodge Luxury Liner: Dodge's Silver Anniversary Triumph' - 1939 Brochure Illustrator: Arthur Radebaugh

‘Dodge Luxury Liner: Dodge’s Silver Anniversary Triumph’ – 1939 Brochure Illustrator: Arthur Radebaugh

In November of 1942 Radebaugh began his enlistment in the U.S. Army. He worked in the Pentagon Ordnance Research and Development Dept./Design and Visualization Branch. He led a team of artists and designers who worked on the development of various weaponry. Radebaugh’s work in creating florescent dials for vehicle and aviation instrument panels gave him a tool that he would use in the years after his military career. He would create ‘Black Light Magic‘ in his works that would become part of his artistic signature. He finished his duties in the Army with the rank of Major in November, 1945.

Half Track Armored Personnel Carrier M3 - A rare illustration from Radebaugh's military work (via Arthur Radebaugh, The Future We Were Promised.)

Half Track Armored Personnel Carrier M3 – A rare illustration from Radebaugh’s military work (via Arthur Radebaugh, The Future We Were Promised.)

Radenbaugh’s return to Detroit seemed to be perfectly timed. The city was preparing for the fiftieth anniversary of the American auto industry – Detroit’s Golden Jubilee 1896-1946. Radenbaugh was commissioned to design a symbol for the event that would be used as a logo for print materials, memorabilia, and other ephemera. It was also built into a sixty-five foot statue that was on display in Grand Circus Park for many spectators to see and enjoy.

Detroit Automotive Golden Jubilee Program Cover - 1946  Arthur Radebaugh Illustrator 1946 Detroit Golden Jubilee Statue - Designed by Arthur Radebaugh

Image on the left – 1946 Detroit Automotive Golden Jubilee Program Cover – Arthur Radebaugh Illustrator (via Clarence’s Car Journal). On the right – 1946 Detroit Golden Jubilee Statue – Designed by Arthur Radebaugh.

[the] Queen of the Golden Jubilee will be the first woman in history to use atomic power for peacetime purposes in public ceremonies Wednesday night at 9 p.m. when she illuminates and sets in motion the spectacular automotive symbol in Detroit’s downtown Grand Circus Park to usher in the twelve-day Golden Jubilee celebration. …The Queen will wave a wand of neutron-splitting beryllium over a tube of boron, smashing a boron atom. Energy thus produced will be transmitted to the symbol electrically to illuminate its spiralling neon conception of an atom in fission, its antique car and its modern car. — Golden Jubilee press release

Radebaugh’s work with the auto industry probably paid for most of the bills, but his most recognizable and enduring illustrations were those produced for the Detroit based Bohn Aluminum and Brass Corporation. In the 1940s Bohn presented a forward looking, avant garde vision of the future. This was the perfect playground for Arthur Radebaugh’s creative imagination. From hands-free phones, to lightweight energy-saving amusements, to pushbutton overhead kitchen appliances, to planes, trains, and automobiles, Radebaugh’s streamlined techno-utopian style positioned Bohn as a visionary company ready for the technological progress promised for the 20th century and beyond.

One of the First Radebaugh Bohn Illustrations - March 1941

One of the First Radebaugh Bohn Illustrations – March 1941

Bohn - July 1945

Bohn – July 1945

Bohn - May 1946

Bohn – May 1946

Bohn - January 1947

Bohn – January 1947

Bohn - August 1947

Bohn – August 1947

Bohn - 1947

Bohn – 1947

From 1951-1955, Radebaugh’s services were hired by National Motor Bearing, (NBM), in Redwood City, California. His illustrations were decidedly different than those for Bohn. NMB had the same idea to present themselves as a forward looking company – Mars colonization included – yet the approach appeared less exciting and more utilitarian. Though the machinery and technology showed a fascinating future ahead, the monochrome images suggested a future less bright. Insect-like machinery, tentacled farming equipment, and lonesome robots in large warehouses gave a very impersonal alienating effect.

Radebaugh Illustration for  NMB - 1952

Radebaugh Illustration for NMB – ‘Mole-Like’ machines for underground digging. (1952)

Radebaugh Illustratoin for NBM - 1954

Radebaugh Illustratoin for NBM – Tentacled push-button farm machines (1954)

Radebaugh Illustratoin for NBM - 1954

Radebaugh Illustratoin for NBM – Atomic machines on Mars (1954)

Radebaugh Illustratoin for NBM - 1953

Radebaugh Illustratoin for NBM – ‘Rolling Robots’ working in massive warehouses (1953)

As the fifties progressed print advertising began to move towards photography rather than illustration to sell products. Near the end of the decade, Radebaugh switched gears as well. 1958 would be the year that Radebaugh’s future vision and ‘imagineerings’ would begin to reach millions in the form of his nationally syndicated comic, Closer Than We Think. The strip ran from January of that year until January 1963. Radebaugh toured the country in his Ford Thames custom van finding inspiration and ideas as he went along. Each week Radebaugh would present an illustration of a newly found concept or a prediction of his own. Closer Than We Think inspired a generation of scientists, designers, and engineers.

Closer Than We Think: Satellite Space Station - the first strip published on 12 january 1958

Closer Than We Think: Satellite Space Station – the first strip published on 12 january 1958

Closer Than We Think: One-World Job Market (1959)

Closer Than We Think: One-World Job Market (1959)

Closer Than We Think: Wall-To-Wall Television (1961)

Closer Than We Think: Wall-To-Wall Television (1961)

Due to health issues, Arthur Radebaugh retired from his work as an illustrator in 1963. He fell upon hard times financially and was forced to sell most of his personal belongings. Radebaugh spent his last years in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As time marched on, his work and his name faded into obscurity. On 17 January 1974, Arthur C. Radebaugh died in a military hospital.

Fortunately, his art has emerged from the shadows to fascinate the people of the 21st century. While working as director of Lost Archives in Philidelphia, PA., historian Todd Kimmel obtained a large repository of commercial negatives. In 2001 he discovered twenty-five Radebaugh works amongst that collection. Working with Jared Rosenbaum and Rachel Mackow, Kimmel co-created Radebaugh: The Future We Were Promised traveling exhibit. The show was on the road in 2003-2004. An online exhibit was also set up. Since then, interest in the world of Radebaugh continues to grow – forty years after his passing, a new generation now acknowledges a man who so inspired the technologies we enjoy today…and perhaps beyond.

For more information about Arthur Radebaugh – his life and works – check out:
Radebaugh: The Future We Were Promised – A tribute site with biography, chronology, and examples of works.
Visually Telling Stories (VTS) – An excellent collection of Radebaugh’s Bohn Illustrations.
Paleo-Future – A large collection of, and discussion about, Closer Than We Think.

Soviet Russian Magazine Depicts Classic Futurism


Tekhnika Molodezhi, or Technology for the Youth, was first published in Russia in 1933. Throughout World War II, its covers would often depict the weapons and technologies of war. After the war, it featured visions of deep sea exploration, gyrocopters and rocket cars, space capsules and lunar missions. This art offers a rare and fascinating insight into the pop culture depiction of futurism in mid 20th century Russia.

The gallery includes 201 classic illustrations. Below are just a few. Click here to view them all if you’d like. Viewing them is an interesting walk down Soviet Russia’s memory lane.

The Art of Tekhnika Molodezhi

The Art of Tekhnika Molodezhi

The Art of Tekhnika Molodezhi

The Art of Tekhnika Molodezhi

The Art of Tekhnika Molodezhi

The Art of Tekhnika Molodezhi