Skyscrapers with sidewalks in the sky. Hurricane-proof houses that pivot on their foundations. Rocket-propelled backpacks. Cars that turn into...

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Skyscrapers with sidewalks in the sky. Hurricane-proof houses that pivot on their foundations. Rocket-propelled backpacks. Cars that turn into airplanes. Wars fought by robots.

This was the future — we thought.

Whether it was Disney’s Tomorrowland, General Motors’ Futurama exhibit at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair or the 1927 silent film “Metropolis,” the future looked like unbridled progress. It was going to be streamlined living, thanks to technology.

Of course, gender roles didn’t budge. The housewife stayed in the Kitchen of Tomorrow, aided by better appliances. Meanwhile, her hubby was commuting to his moon port aboard his lunar liner, briefcase in hand, in Ford Motor’s series called “Life in the Year 2000,” done in 1956.

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The Museum of Snohomish County History will open “Yesterday’s Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future” at 1 p.m. Saturday for an eight-week run. Created by the Smithsonian Institution, it sketches a world of robots, nuclear-powered cars and underground houses safe from atomic bombs.

Everett is the final stop on the traveling Smithsonian exhibit’s national tour, which began in 2001. The exhibit includes reproductions, photos and other artifacts. A Microsoft flight-simulation program enables people to see what it feels like to fly with a jet pack.

A movie by Barry Levinson also goes with the exhibit and will run continually on video during the show. In the production, John Waters, Spalding Gray, Fran Leibowitz, Philip Johnson, Octavia Butler, Ralph Nader, Bob Newhart, Dick Gregory and Matt Groening are just a few of the famous people answering a question: “What’s tomorrow going to be like?”

“Yesterday’s Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future”


When: Opens Saturday and continues through Dec. 18. Hours will be 1-4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, with extended hours until 5 p.m. Oct. 30 and Nov. 27 and until 7 p.m. on opening day, as well as Oct. 26 and 29; Nov. 18 and 26; and Dec. 2 and 17.

Where: Museum of Snohomish County History, 1913 Hewitt Ave., Everett.

Admission: Free; suggested donation $2 for adults and teens, $1 for children.

Information: 425-259-2022, www.snocomuseum.org or www.yesterdaystomorrows.org.

Kiosks will explore “themes that we were sold years ago that depict the future,” museum director Eric Taylor said.

“Finding the Future” deals with imagination and popular culture expressed in novels, radio and films.

“Transportation of Tomorrow” celebrates futuristic vehicles such as the Aerocar, a combination automobile and aircraft.

“The idea that I’m trying to get across is that we’re always planning for the future,” Taylor said. “And the future arrives, whether we want it to or not.”

Diane Wright: 425-745-7815 or dwright@seattletimes.com