Fact Check: 26 Ladies' Home Journal Predictions for 2001 (from 1901)


In the introduction to his December 1901 Ladies' Home Journal article "What Will Happen in the Next Hundred Years," John Elfreth Watkins, a former civil engineer, says that he conferred with the "the wisest and most careful men in our greatest institutions of science and learning" on the following predictions and simply transcribed what they reported. He doesn't mention who these great thinkers of the early 20th century were, but they had some remarkable hits and noteworthy misses when it came to anticipating life in 2001.

1. On population

There will be from 350,000,000 to 500,000,000 people in America and its possessions... Nicaragua will ask for admission to our Union after the completion of the great canal. Mexico will be next.

Watkins' experts actually overestimated population growth during the 20th century. According to U.S. census estimates, the population on July 1, 2001 was just 284,796,887. They also failed to recognize the eventual decline of imperialism sparked by the British Empire. In addition to Nicaragua and Mexico, the predictions imagine a number of South American countries voluntarily joining the U.S. to avoid being colonized by European powers.

2. On stature and life expectancy

The American will be taller by one to two inches... He will live fifty years instead of thirty-five as at present.

The article was right to think increased medicine and sanitation would have a salutatory effect. In fact, they underestimated the height evolution. Although not specific to America, worldwide the average man has grown four inches from 5'6" in 1900 to 5'10" in 2000. As for the life expectancy, not only did the article low-ball our modern life spans —74.4 years for men in 2001— it also under-reported the 1901 life spans which, these days at least, are estimated at 47.6 years.

3. On suburbanization

The city house will practically be no more. Building in blocks will be illegal.

This is a cut and dry case of getting it way wrong. In 1900, just as American urbanization was getting under way, about 30 percent of the total population lived in cities. It's been on the rise ever since, and by 2000, 79 percent of people in the U.S. lived in urban areas.

4. On language evolution

There will be no C, X or Q in every-day alphabet. They will be abandoned because unnecessary [sic]. Spelling by sound will have been adopted, first by the newspapers. English will be a language of condensed words expressing condensed ideas, and will be more extensively spoken than any other. Russian will rank second.

As you may have noticed, none of the 26 letters they were using back in 1901 have been banished from the alphabet—not even Q. But that doesn't mean the article was totally off base for imagining that language would get more streamlined and intuitive. As annoying as it may be to replace "you" with "U," that is "spelling by sound." (Although, contrary to these predictions, newspapers will probably remain the last bastion of correct spelling and grammar.)

It's hard to pin down specifics for international measures of language speakers, but a 2010 estimate from a Swedish encyclopedia puts English at third in the world, behind Mandarin and Spanish. Russian clocks in at number eight.

5. On temperature control

Hot or cold air will be turned on from spigots to regulate the temperature of a house ... Rising early to build a furnace fire will be a task of the olden times.


6. On animals and insects

There will be no wild animals except in menageries. Rats and mice will have been exterminated. The horse will have become practically extinct.

Insect screens will be unnecessary. Mosquitoes, house-flies and roaches will have been practically exterminated.

We may only wish that rats, mice, and mosquitoes were extinct, but the experts cited in the article had valid reason to think that expanding human populations would relegate the remaining wild animals to zoos and other enclosures.

7. On convenience eating

Ready-cooked meals will be bought from establishments similar to our bakeries of to-day. They will purchase the materials in tremendous wholesale quantities and sell the cooked foods at a price much lower than the cost of individual cooking ... The meal being over, the dishes used will be packed and returned to the cooking establishments where they will be washed ... These laboratories will be equipped with electric stoves, and all sorts of electric devices, such as coffee-grinders, egg-beaters, stirrers, shakers, parers, meat-choppers, meat-saws, potato-mashers, lemon-squeezers, dish-washers, dish-dryers and the like.

The premonition about the prevalence and convenience of takeout food is essentially spot-on. Sure, we don't return the dishes to be washed, but that's because we've since adopted the use of disposable utensils. And the list of mechanized kitchen devices maybe over-eager, but many have become totally standard, in restaurants and even home kitchens.

8. On food sanitation

No foods will be exposed. Storekeepers who expose food to air breathed out by patrons or the atmosphere of the busy street will be arrested with those who sell stale or adulterated produce.

Health codes are hardly as strict as the article anticipates—policing against "air breathed out by patrons" seems impossible—but now that they mention it, I should probably start washing produce from the vendors on the street.

9. On the depletion of coal and renewable resources

Coal will not be used for heating or cooking. It will be scarce, but not entirely exhausted ... Man will have found electricity powered by water-power to be much cheaper. Every river or creek with any suitable fall will be equipped with water-motors, turning dynamos, making electricity.

Coal usage was certainly on the decline in the 20th century, hitting a low in 2006. But unfortunately, it has not been reliably replaced with renewable sources like water power. In fact, in 2010, hydroelectric sources made up just 6 percent of the total electricity production in the country. Instead, as coal use waned after the first two decades of the 20th century, it was replaced by oil. Mechanical needs propagated by World War II drove an increase in oil use and by 1950, oil had surpassed coal as the most prevalent energy source in America.

10. On the rise of public transportation

There will be no street cars in our large cities. All hurry traffic will be below or high above ground when brought within city limits ... Cities, therefore, will be free from all noises.

So close! Below-ground traffic in the form of subways certainly has taken off in the past century, but as anyone with a street-facing window in New York City—or presumably any large metropolis—can attest to, that doesn't mean large cities ever "free from all noises."

11. On photography (and, unintentionally, the internet)

Photographs will be telegraphed from any distance. If there be a battle in China a hundred years hence snapshots of its most striking events will be published in the newspapers an hour later.

It doesn't always make it to the newspapers first—Twitter, anyone?—but it also doesn't even take an hour.

12. On train travel

Trains will run two miles a minute, normally; express trains one hundred and fifty miles an hour... Cars will, like houses be artificially cooled.

Amtrak, which is not necessarily representative of all train travel but is widely used, reports top operating speeds of 150 mph. So, spot on.

13. On automobiles replacing horses

Automobiles will be cheaper than horses are to-day. Farmers will own automobile hay-wagons, automobile truck-wagons, plows, harrows and hay-rakes ... Automobiles will have been substituted for every horse vehicle now known.

Trying to fact-check the cost of a horse—a widely variable commodity—over a hundred years ago and account for inflation is not an exact science, but here are some numbers to help with the comparison: The average price of a horse in 1895, according to one New York Times article, was around $60; and $60 in 1901 translates to roughly $1166 in 2000. The average price of a new car in 2000 was $20,355. Which, for what it's worth, is about $1029 in 1901. So no, by no matter what metric you use, cars are still not cheaper than a horse was in 1901. But the rest of the prediction is accurate. Regardless of expense, automobiles have fully replaced horse vehicles.

14. On admirable exercise habits

Gymnastics will begin in the nursery, where toys and games will be designed to strengthen the muscles. Exercise will be compulsory in the schools. Every school, college and community will have a gymnasium. All cities will have public gymnasiums. A man or woman unable to walk ten miles at a stretch will be regarded as a weakling.

It's difficult to gauge the progress we've made in fulfilling our forefathers' predictions for fitness. A childhood emphasis on exercise is certainly noticeable in the current culture, but I fear they'd find a number of "weakling[s]" walking (but not for 10 miles at a time) about. Of course, public gymnasiums might help the cause.

15. On the swiftness of sea travel

Fast electric ships, crossing the ocean at more than a mile a minute will go from New York to Liverpool in two days. The bodies of these ships will be built above the waves. They will be supported upon runners somewhat like those of a sleigh. These runners will be very buoyant. On their undersides will be apertures expelling jets of air. In this way, a film of air will be kept between them and the water's surface.

We definitely don't have hovercraft sail boats or ocean liners as expected, and a trans-Atlantic trip will still take you at least a week, but that's because this next prediction turned out a little differently as well.

16. On air travel

There will be air-ships, but they will not successfully compete with surface cars and water vessels for passenger or freight traffic.

Unfortunately for the accuracy of this prediction, not only do boats fail to cross the Atlantic in under two days, air-ships have mastered the trip in a matter of hours.

17. On developments in warfare

Giant guns will shoot twenty-five miles or more, and will hurl anywhere within such a radius shells exploding and destroying whole cities ... Fleets of air-ships, hiding themselves with dense, smoky mists, thrown off by themselves as they move, will float over cities, fortifications, camps or fleets. They will surprise foes below by hurling upon them deadly thunderbolts. These aerial war-ships will necessitate bomb-proof forts, protected by great steel plates over their tops as well as their sides.

And this only scratches the surface of modern warfare.

18. On increased viewing capabilities

Persons and things of all kinds will be brought within focus of cameras connected electrically with screens at opposite ends of circuits, thousands of miles at a span. American audiences in their theatre will view upon huge curtains before them the coronation of kings in Europe or the progress of battles in the Orient.

In fact, we don't even need to go to the theatre to witness the wonders of television technology anymore.

19. On telephones

Wireless telephone and telegraph circuits will span the world ... We will be able to telephone China quite as readily as we now talk from New York to Brooklyn.

I'm actually not convinced that international fees aren't so exorbitant as to be prohibitive but technically, this one is true.

20. On hearing the opera anytime you want

Grand opera will be telephoned to private homes, and will sound as harmonious as though enjoyed from a theatre box. Automatic instruments reproducing original airs exactly will bring the best music to the families of the untalented.

This prediction actually seems to conflate several modern technologies. The emphasis seems to be on both consistent access to high quality music—a burgeoning but still flawed experience at the time—and the ability to witness live events, which has become a regular experience in the modern era.

21. On education, and enforced social equality

A university education will be free to every man and woman ... Poor students will be given free board, free clothing and free books if ambitious and actually unable to meet their school and college expenses. Medical inspectors regularly visiting the public schools will furnish poor children free eyeglasses, free dentistry and free medical attention of every kind ... In vacation time, poor children will be taken on trips to various parts of the world. Etiquette and housekeeping will be important studies in the public schools.

While the United Kingdom offers state-funded higher education (or at least it did back in 2001), far from fulfilling this prediction, America seems mired in a crisis surrounding the cost of higher education, and the loans it forces students to take on. The thought of social services picking up the tab for not only medical fees but also educational trips seems overly idealistic but an eased financial burden for students with both need and merit is the motivation behind many scholarships.

But we've definitely nixed housekeeping and etiquette from any curriculum I know.

22. On home deliveries

Pneumatic tubes, instead of store wagons, will deliver packages and bundles. These tubes will collect, deliver and transport mail over certain distances, perhaps for hundreds of miles. They will at first connect with private houses of the wealthy; then with all homes.

Speaking as someone who always misses the delivery guy, I wish!

23. On electrically-grown veggies

Winter will be turned into summer and night into day by the farmer. In cold weather he will place heat-conducting electric wires under the soil of his garden and thus warm his growing plants. He will also grow large gardens under glass.

We don't even need electric wires under the soil because "gardens under glass" —greenhouses—work so well.

24. On other means of eating fruit in February

Fast-flying refrigerators on land and sea will bring delicious fruits from the tropics and southern temperate zone within a few days. The farmers of South America, South Africa, Australia and the South Sea Islands, whose seasons are directly opposite to ours, will thus supply us in winter with fresh summer foods which cannot be grown here.

Add in air-borne refrigerators and this prediction is alarmingly accurate.

25. On the oddities we will grow and eat

Strawberries as large as apples will be eaten by our great-great-grandchildren for their Christmas dinners a hundred years hence. Raspberries and blackberries will be as large ... One cantaloupe will supply an entire family ... Peas and beans will be as large as beets are today ... Roses will be as large as cabbage heads...There will be black, blue and green roses. It will be possible to grow any flower in any color and to transfer the perfume of a scented flower to another which is odorless.

Sadly, giant fruit has remained the stuff of children's fiction. (That link is not just peaches.)

26. On medical improvements

Few drugs will be swallowed or taken into the stomach unless needed for the direct treatment of that organ itself. Drugs needed by the lungs, for instance, will be applied directly to those organs through the skin and flesh. They will be carried with the electric current applied without pain to the outside skin of the body...Not only will it be possible for a physician to actually see a living, throbbing heart inside the chest, but he will be able to magnify and photograph any part of it.

Sure, electricity didn't turn out to be the panacea that the article predicted. But at least our x-ray and imaging capabilities wouldn't disappoint.

Sergeant Marshall/Department of Defense, NARA // Public Domain
Would You Be Able to Pass a World War I Military Literacy Test?
Sergeant Marshall/Department of Defense, NARA // Public Domain
Sergeant Marshall/Department of Defense, NARA // Public Domain

Though reading and writing might not come to mind as the first requirement for trench warfare, during the early 20th century, the U.S. Army became increasingly concerned with whether or not its soldiers were literate. Thousands of World War I soldiers couldn't read printed directions on basic military tasks. The Army didn't implement its first major literacy program until the 1940s, but literacy tests were included in a battery of psychological evaluations World War I recruits went through to determine their mental fitness and intelligence, as the blog Futility Closet recently highlighted.

These unconventional literacy tests largely took the form of a yes or no questions with obvious answers, according to the 1921 report from the U.S. Surgeon General, Psychological Examining in the United States Army. Edited by pioneering intelligence-testing psychologist Robert Yerkes, who developed the military's first psychology exams for new recruits (and was also famous for his support for eugenics), the volume is a lengthy compilation of all of the methods the U.S. Army used to test the intelligence of its future soldiers. Many of these tests are now considered racist and culturally biased—some of the "intelligence" testing questions required recruits to know things like what products Velvet Joe (a figure used in tobacco campaigns) advertised—but some of the literacy questions, in particular, simply come off as weird in the modern era. Some are downright existential, in fact, while others—"Is a guitar a disease?"—come off as almost poetic.

A long questionnaire to test literacy, including questions like 'Is coal white?'
Psychological Examining in the United States Army, Google Books // Public Domain

One test, the Devens Literarcy Test, asked recruits questions like "Is genuine happiness a priceless treasure?" and "Does success tend to bring pleasure?" Another section of the test asked "Do boys like to play?" and "Do clerks enjoy a vacation?"

Other questions seem like they're up for debate, like "Are painters ever artless individuals?" and "Is extremely athletic exercise surely necessary?" Surely the answers to questions like "Should criminals forfeit liberty?" and "Is misuse of money an evil?" depend on the opinions of the reader. The answer to "Do imbeciles usually hold responsible offices?" might be different depending on how the person feels about their Congressional representative, and could surely be the spark for an hour-long argument at most dinner parties.

Still others are tests of cultural knowledge, not reading skill—a major modern criticism of Yerkes's work. Despite being arguably a pretty literate person, I certainly don't know the answer to the question "Do voluntary enlistments increase the army?" A question like "Are 'diminutive' and 'Lilliputian' nearly identical?" isn't exactly a test of literacy, but a test of whether or not you've read Gulliver's Travels, which doesn't exactly seem like a necessity for military success.

Luckily, some of the questions are pretty obvious, like "Is coal white?" That one I can answer. The full list of questions used in the various versions of the Devens test is below for you to test your own Army-level literacy.

  • Do dogs bark?
  • Is coal white?
  • Can you see?
  • Do men eat stones?
  • Do boys like to play?
  • Can a bed run?
  • Do books have hands?
  • Is ice hot?
  • Do winds blow?
  • Have all girls the same name?
  • Is warm clothing good for winter?
  • Is this page of paper white?
  • Are railroad tickets free?
  • Is every young woman a teacher?
  • Is it always perfect weather?
  • Is the heart within the body?
  • Do clerks enjoy a vacation?
  • Is the President a public official?
  • Would you enjoy losing a fortune?
  • Does an auto sometimes need repair?
  • Is it important to remember commands?
  • Are avenues usually paved with oxygen?
  • Do we desire serious trouble?
  • Is practical judgment valuable?
  • Ought a man's career to be ruined by accidents?
  • Do you cordially recommend forgery?
  • Does an emergency require immediate decision?
  • Should honesty bring misfortune to its possessor?
  • Are gradual improvements worth while?
  • Is a punctual person continually tardy?
  • Are instantaneous effects invariably rapid?
  • Should preliminary disappointment discourage you?
  • Is hearsay testimony trustworthy evidence?
  • Is wisdom characteristic of the best authorities?
  • Is extremely athletic exercise surely necessary?
  • Is incessant discussion usually boresome?
  • Are algebraic symbols ever found in manuals?
  • Are tentative regulations ever advantageous?
  • Are "diminutive" and "Lilliputian" nearly identical?
  • Is an infinitesimal titanic bulk possible?
  • Do all connubial unions eventuate felicitously?
  • Is a "gelatinous exaltation" ridiculous?
  • Are "sedate" and "hilarious" similar in meaning?
  • Is avarice sometimes exhibited by cameos?
  • Can a dog run?
  • Is water dry?
  • Can you read?
  • Do stones talk?
  • Do books eat?
  • Do cats go to school?
  • Are six more than two?
  • Is John a girl's name?
  • Are there letters in a word?
  • Is your nose on your face?
  • Can you carry water in a sieve?
  • Do soldiers wear uniforms?
  • Does it rain every morning?
  • Are newspapers made of iron?
  • Are "forward" and "backward" directions?
  • Do many people attend motion-picture theatres?
  • Do handkerchiefs frequently injure human beings?
  • Do magazines contain advertisements?
  • Are political questions often the subject of debates?
  • Are empires inclosed in envelopes?
  • Are members of the family usually regarded as guests?
  • Is genuine happiness a priceless treasure?
  • Do imbeciles usually hold responsible offices?
  • May chimneys be snipped off with scissors?
  • Is moderation a desirable virtue?
  • Are apish manners desired by a hostess?
  • Do conscientious brunettes exist?
  • Do serpents make oblong echoes?
  • Do voluntary enlistments increase the army?
  • Is hypocrisy approved by honest men?
  • Is virile behavior effeminate?
  • Do alleged facts often require verification?
  • Do pestilences ordinarily bestow great benefit?
  • Are painters ever artless individuals?
  • Do the defenders of citadels sometimes capitulate?
  • Do physicians ameliorate pathological conditions?
  • Is embezzlement a serious misdemeanor?
  • Do vagrants commonly possess immaculate cravats?
  • Are "loquacious" and "voluble" opposite in meaning?
  • May heresies arise among the laity?
  • Are piscatorial activities necessarily lucrative?
  • Do tendrils terminate in cerebral hemorrhages?
  • Does a baby cry?
  • Can a hat speak?
  • Do hens lay eggs?
  • Is a stone soft?
  • Is one more than seven?
  • Do the land and sea look just alike?
  • Are some books black?
  • Does water run up hill?
  • Are stamps used on letters?
  • Do 100 cents make a dollar?
  • Are we sure what events will happen next year?
  • Do ships sail on railroads?
  • Do stones float in the air?
  • May meat be cut with a knife?
  • Are ledges common in mountain districts?
  • Does success tend to bring pleasure?
  • Are diamonds mined in mid-ocean?
  • Is misuse of money an evil?
  • Should criminals forfeit liberty?
  • Is special information usually a disadvantage?
  • Are attempted suicides always fatal?
  • Are exalted positions held by distinguished men?
  • Does confusion favor the establishment of order?
  • Is a civil answer contrary to law?
  • Is a dilapidated garment nevertheless clothing?
  • Are textile manufacturers valueless?
  • Do thieves commit depredations?
  • Does close inspection handicap accurate report?
  • Do transparent goggles transmit light?
  • Do illiterate men read romances?
  • Is irony connected with blast furnaces?
  • Do avalanches ever descend mountains?
  • Are scythes always swung by swarthy men?
  • Do pirates accumulate booty?
  • Are intervals of repose appreciated?
  • Are intermittent sounds discontinuous?
  • Is an avocational activity ordinarily pleasurable?
  • Are pernicious pedestrians translucent?
  • Are amicable relationships disrupted by increased congeniality?
  • Are many nocturnal raids surreptitiously planned
  • Are milksops likely to perpetrate violent offenses?
  • Are "precipitancy" and "procrastination" synonymous?
  • Is snow cold?
  • Can a dog read?
  • Do houses have doors?
  • Has a horse five legs?
  • Are three more than ten?
  • Do mice love cats?
  • Does a hat belong to you?
  • Do animals have glass eyes?
  • Should fathers provide clothing for children?
  • Is it true that lead is heavy
  • Do poor men have much money?
  • Is summer colder than winter?
  • Can a horse tell time by a watch?
  • Is a city larger than a country town?
  • Does Christmas ever fall on Tuesday?
  • Do Christians often overlook faults?
  • Are difficult problems easily solved?
  • Do convicts sometimes escape from prison?
  • Should the courts secure justice for everybody?
  • Are scoundrels always intoxicated?
  • Is a guitar a kind of disease?
  • Do jugglers furnish entertainment?
  • Should we build on insecure foundations?
  • Do annual conventions take place biweekly?
  • Does persistent effort favor ultimate success?
  • Is a shrewd man necessarily admired?
  • Is manual skill advantageous?
  • Are elaborate bonnets inexpensive?
  • Are petty annoyances irritating?
  • Are false arguments valid?
  • Do you approve of ruthless massacres?
  • Do blemishes occur in complexions?
  • Is air found in a complete vacuum?
  • Do robins migrate periodically?
  • Are weird tales sometimes gruesome?
  • Do felines possess locomotor appendages?
  • Do demented individuals frequently have hallucinations?
  • Are laconic messages sometimes verbose?
  • Are perfunctory endeavors usually efficacious?
  • Would a deluge extinguish a smouldering trellis?
  • Are devastated suburbs exhilarating vistas?
  • Are "contingent" and "independent" alike in meaning?

[h/t Futility Closet]

10 Not-So-Small Facts About the Volkswagen Beetle

While Volkswagen has announced—for a second time—that it's going to cease production on the Beetle, people are still singing the praises of the quirky little car. Here are 10 not-so-small things you need to know about the German car that was once named one of the top four cars of the century.


Adolf Hitler checks out a VW Beetle
Getty Images

It’s long been said that Adolf Hitler was the man behind the Beetle, and that’s sort of true. The dictator wanted German families to be able to afford a car, so he enlisted automaker Ferdinand Porsche (yes, that Porsche) to make “the people’s car.” But the basis for the Beetle had been around since long before Hitler’s demand; the Bug was heavily influenced by Porsche's V series. Rumors that Hitler directly designed the car are probably false; though he was the one who reportedly said that the car should look like a beetle, because “You only have to observe nature to learn how best to achieve streamlining,” it’s likely that he was regurgitating something he had read in an automotive magazine. Still, one thing is for certain: Hitler himself placed the cornerstone for the Porsche factory in Wolfsburg, Germany.


Perhaps still wary of anything imported from Germany, Americans shunned the Beetle when it was introduced in the States in 1949: Only two were sold in the first year. But after that, sales grew quickly. By the 1960s, hundreds of thousands of Bugs were sold every year, topping out at 570,000 in 1970.


A pink VW Beetle

We have the public to thank for the car’s distinctive nickname. Originally known as the Volkswagen Type 1, the car’s curves and rounded top led to its later, insect-like moniker. Volkswagen must have realized they had a good thing on their hands, because they started referring to the car as the VW Beetle in the late 1960s.


The UK and the U.S. aren’t the only countries that bestowed a new name on the Volkswagen Type 1. In France, it's called Coccinellewhich means ladybug. It's Maggiolino and Fusca in Italy and Brazil, respectively, both of which mean "beetle." Mexico calls it Vocho; it's Peta (turtle) in Bolivia; and Kodok (frog) in Indonesia. 


In 1999, Advertising Age declared the car's not-so-small ad campaign to be the best campaign of the last 100 years, besting Coca-Cola, Marlboro, Nike, and McDonald’s. The quirky concept and copy—which, according to Advertising Age, “Gave advertising permission to surprise, to defy and to engage the consumer without bludgeoning him about the face and body”—was a game-changer for the entire industry.

The "Think Small" line and accompanying self-deprecating copy was written by Julian Koenig, who was also responsible for naming Earth Day and coming up with Timex’s “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking” tagline. He’s also half-responsible for daughter Sarah Koenig, whom you may know from NPR’s This American Life and Serial.


Herbie the Love Bug

Because of their distinctive aesthetic, VW Bugs have been associated with everything from the Beatles to Transformers. A few highlights:

  • The Beetle with the license plate “LMW 28IF” on the cover of The Beatles' Abbey Road album was sold at an auction for $23,000 in 1986. It is now on display at Volkswagen's AutoMuseum at the company’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany.
  • The Fremont Troll sculpture in Seattle, a huge statue lurking under the Aurora Bridge, clutches an actual VW Beetle. An in-progress picture shows that the car was once red. It also once contained a time capsule of Elvis memorabilia, which was stolen.
  • The Herbie the Love Bug series was a big hit for Disney in the late 1960s and early 1970s. One of the original Herbies sold for $126,500 at an auction in 2015.
  • In the original Transformers cartoon, Bumblebee transformed from a VW Bug. The car was changed to a Camaro for the live-action movies.


The so-called “blumenvasen,” a small vase that could be clipped to the dashboard, speaker grille, or windshield, was porcelain when it was originally offered. The nod to flower power became such a symbol of the car that it was incorporated into the 1998 redesign. Sadly, it didn’t make the cut for the most recent overhaul: The vase was eliminated in 2011 by marketing execs apparently seeking to make the car more male-friendly.


When the millionth VW Beetle rolled off the line in 1955, the company capped the achievement by plating the car in gold and giving it diamante accents. They also created a Bug with a wicker body in collaboration with master basket-maker Thomas Heinrich.


After WWII, the VW factory in Wolfsburg, Germany, was supposed to be handed over to the British. No British car manufacturer wanted to take responsibility for the company, though, saying that "the vehicle does not meet the fundamental technical requirement of a motor-car," "it is quite unattractive to the average buyer," and that "To build the car commercially would be a completely uneconomic enterprise." Whoops.


The last VW Bug
Getty Images

Beetle #21,529,464—the one celebrated by the mariachi band—is now at Volkswagen's AutoMuseum.


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