City Marked New Century with Past Memories and A. Future Forecast

By Pendleton, Randolph | The Florida Times Union, December 28, 1999 | Go to article overview

City Marked New Century with Past Memories and A. Future Forecast


Pendleton, Randolph, The Florida Times Union


Personal aircraft for commuting from houses in St. Augustine to jobs in downtown Jacksonville. Moving sidewalks. Criminalometers to detect criminals before they commit crimes.

Sounds like predictions of what the next 100 years might bring, but these were forecasts that people were making 100 years ago for the year 2000.

Well, actually, the predictions were made 99 years ago.

Jacksonville was content to wait a year, ushering in the new century in 1901 with memories of the past 100 years and predictions about the future.

It was cloudy and 62 degrees when the new year arrived and a battery of howitzers fired a 19-gun salute. Many churches held midnight services.

People exchanged greetings in the streets and there were a few fireworks, but The Florida Times-Union and Citizen observed that the new century was welcomed quietly and with dignity.

Cohen Brothers department store celebrated with a sale that featured nightgowns for 49 cents and corset covers for a dime.

The population of the city was 28,429, making it by far the largest in the state. Miami did not make the top 10, but St. Augustine was fifth.

The Duval County schools reported 4,371 white students and 6,467 black students, nearly eight times the total in Dade County.

Jacksonville had 18 miles of paved streets.

There wasn't a lot of need for pavement, but that was about to change.

The first factory-built automobile had arrived in the city Jan. 4, 1900, and the first auto dealer opened for business in 1903, according to T. Frederick Davis' History of Jacksonville, Florida and Vicinity.

There were no cellular telephones to worry about, so people worried about the safety of regular telephones.

In one article headlined "The Telephone Not a Menace To Health, Says Dr. Edson," a doctor said study had shown that telephones would not spread germs as long as the mouthpiece is kept clean and the mouth is kept several inches from it.

"If these rules are rigidly followed, the scientist sees in the use of the telephone no more danger than may accrue from swinging signs," the article said.

The Times-Union and Citizen marked the beginning of the 20th century with articles looking back at the last century and ahead at the new one.

The 19th century had witnessed the advent of electricity, the rise of the citrus industry and the opening of the state to tourism and development by the railroad tycoons, Henry Plant and Henry Flagler, the newspaper noted.

And what would the 20th century have to offer?

Some of the predictions still sound futuristic, but others now seem modest.

In a fictional conversation in the Jan. 1, 1901, Times-Union and Citizen, a grandmother looking back in 2000 told a young man and woman about the changes in her 80-year lifetime.

"I was born in 1920, but modern medical science gives me the hope of at least 20 years more of activity," the grandmother said. "Why children, when I was your age, old people would have ridiculed the notion of an 80-year-old dame driving a tandem team of ostriches from Hogan and Bay streets 17 miles down the boulevard to Pablo Plaza. …

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