Everyone Was Supposed to Own a Yacht By Now, According to Futurists of the 1950s

Illustration for article titled Everyone Was Supposed to Own a Yacht By Now, According to Futurists of the 1950s

According to futurists of the 1950s, people of the 21st century were all supposed to be zipping around in solar-powered cars, watching wall-sized TVs, and enjoying vacations on the moon. We were even supposed to all have our own yachts. Well, half a yacht at least.


The July 20, 1958 edition of Arthur Radebaugh’s Sunday comic strip “Closer Than We Think” imagined the futuristic world of leisure, where every family not only owned their own car and home but also enjoyed a bizarre half-yacht that was powered by their automobile.

From the Chicago Tribune:

The luxury of yachting may be within the reach of almost everyone in the world of tomorrow.

Mass production of low-cost plastic hulls will be made possible by the use of guns that spray the plastic, similar to the “Fiber-Resin Depositor” as conceived by the Rand Development Corporation.

The family car will be used for motive power. When the yachtsman of the future drives his auto into the cradle of his new marine creation the engine will be in place. The rear wheels will rest on a roller linked to the propeller. The driver will put the car in gear, step on the accelerator, and presto - he’ll be yachting.

Granted, Americans aren’t exactly clamoring for their own car-powered yachts these days. They’re not like flying cars or jetpacks. But the strip speaks to a kind of promise that was made in midcentury America: The world of leisure is coming, and even though you won’t get a full yacht, at least every person will get a half-yacht.

Today, we’d settle for a quarter yacht. Or maybe a nicer car. Or maybe just the ability to work a 40-hour week, earn a decent living to support a family, and take time off during weekends and vacations. Just kidding. That sounds like science fiction.


Matt Novak is a senior writer at Gizmodo and founder of Paleofuture.com. He's writing a book about the movies U.S. presidents watched at the White House, Camp David, and on Air Force One.



I just love that the value proposition is that you float a multi-thousand dollar car on a boat that has to be both large and buoyant enough to hold a car, rather than buy a relatively inexpensive outboard motor on a boat that could just be half the size and still offer just as much usable space*

Also, how the hell is power transmitted to the boat? Does the car need some sort of tractor Power Takeoff system? And every passenger car would have the same form factor/clearance, so it’d fit perfectly? or do you just but a ‘boat-compatible car’ that costs more than other cars on the road

*That said, having an enclosed car with heat/AC might be nice and save a little bit of money