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JAMA 100 Years Ago
June 15, 2011


JAMA. 2011;305(23):2475. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.745

Portraits of the literal, inartistic kind, when many years old, often have a ludicrous appearance, owing to changes in style of dress. Similarly, years hence, some of our present customs will invite a supercilious smile from the rising generation, for surely they are fated to become obsolete, and when they have become so it will be hard to understand why they were ever tolerated. The smoking chimney is a sample. We have before us the letterhead of the “Department of Public Safety, Office of the Superintendent of Hospital,” of one of the largest cities of our country. A very carefully executed engraving of the hospital and grounds adorns the letterhead. In the background a smokestack rises from the heating plant. The artist, knowing that a smokestack was meant to smoke, does his duty nobly. The smokestack belches forth a black cloud. Such an exhibit on the letterhead of a Department of Public Safety will be absurd twenty-five years hence. This conception of the artist—namely, that a chimney should smoke—has been a source of amusement before now. Health resorts, steamboat lines and railroad companies often portray on their advertising matter a steamboat or engine belching out a veritable cloud; and the apparent besmirching and discomfort of all who are within reach cannot be said to be a first-class advertisement for the resort or the railroad. Customs change. Although a moving railroad train without a cloud of smoke would seem to be as much of an anomaly now as a horseless carriage would have seemed a short time ago, in the future the anomaly—and a most discreditable one—will be the smoking stack, at least within urban limits.

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