Illustration for article titled Weird 1880s cartoon imagined the Statue of Liberty would become a subway station

We're used to seeing the Statue of Liberty get trashed in speculative fiction, but this strange cartoon from Harper's Weekly on May 28, 1887 turned Lady Liberty into a dystopian, Castle Greyskull-style train station.


As awesome as the idea of the Statue of Liberty regurgitating train after train is, it's doubtful artist W. A. Rogers seriously considered this a vision of the future. Notes Robert C. Kennedy:

The meaning of the cartoon is not readily identifiable. The artist may be fearful (notice the statue's skull-like face) that the expansion of the elevated railroad system threatens to mar the beauty of the city. The flag (foreground) announcing rail transit to Coney Island may indicate concern that the emerging transportation infrastructure will eventually transform the city's historic and cultural sights, such as the Statue of Liberty, into cheap carnivals (the train's path up the statue resembles a roller coaster).

The cartoonist may also have been concerned about the political power and corruption of the railroad companies. In the mid-1880s, competition from the elevated railroads led the owners of horse- car companies to desperate measures, including bribing state legislators and city aldermen.


For more bizarre NYC retrofuturism, check out a plan to fuse Brooklyn and Manhattan and the never-built bullet train to Philadelphia.

[New York Times via Ptak Science Books]


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