From his first job at Scientific American circa 1900 to his retirement in 1956 as science editor at the New York Times, Waldemar Kaempffert wrote widely about the sciences. As you might imagine from the man who penned yesterday's Popular Mechanics article, Kaempffert was a man with grand plans for a future world made better by science and industry. In 1918, he explained one of them, related to pneumatic tube meals, in a letter to the editor of The New York Times.


Not until the trained engineer attacks the problem of housekeeping will these feminine ravings against servants and housekeeping difficulties be stilled . . . The kitchen engineer's first task will be the simplification of cooking . . . If letters are conveyed almost to your very door by the pneumatic tube, why should not the same means supply you with breakfast, lunch and dinner?

Imagine a kitchen of unprecedented immensity, a building comparable with a modern hotel in size, a place where an army of cooks is busily engaged in roasting meats, in preparing vegetables, in concocting entrancing sauces, in mixing salads, in stirring dreamy desserts. Imagine pneumatic tubes leading from the delivery floor of that mighty building to thousands of homes and apartments. Seven o'clock comes. Carriers three feet long, divided into compartments for soup, meat, sauces, vegetables and clean dishes, are slipped into the throats of myriad tubes. The covers are thrown down and with a swish the carriers are blown by compressed air to their destination. A few minutes later they are discharged into the kitchens of as many dwellings. The single maid of the household serves the dinner thus pneumatically received.


Kaempffert suggested that a daily "Municipal Bill of Fare" published in the local papers. A city dweller would peruse the day's menu, then "ring up the central cooking station and say: 'This is kitchen number t-h-r-r-r-e-e-e one four five nine. Send me dinner No. 6 at half past 7.'"

"Does this imply that the city will cook for the people?" he continued, "That is exactly what will happen. What is more, soup cooks, steak broilers, and coffee specialists will be elected very much as Aldermen will be elected"—political gridlock thus ensuring the starvation deaths of city dwellers everywhere, a cynical 21st-century type might add.

Kaempffert's letter to the editor was his second attempt at getting this plan off the ground; you can read his earlier article here.


Library of Congress image no. LC-USW3- 032351-E [P&P]