Fact Check

Is This A Real 1919 Comic Strip That Seemingly Predicted Cell Phones?

The comic also appears to predict the then-theoretical invention's effect on society.

Published Dec 28, 2023

 (W. K. Haselden)
Image Via W. K. Haselden
Claim:
A comic first published in 1919 predicted cell phones.

A comic strip allegedly published in 1919 is often shared on social media due to the work's apparent prescience. The comic, records show, is genuine and stems from a March 5, 1919 edition of the British tabloid The Mirror. It was titled, "The Pocket Telephone: When Will It Ring," and the answer to that question was, according to the illustration, essentially all the time:

According to the British Cartoon Archive, the comic was created by W. K. Haselden and first published in The Mirror on March 5, 1919. It was subsequently republished on Jan., 23, 1923, with the caption, "When we all have pocket telephones." For those reasons, we rated this claim "True."

The comic was seemingly a response to a claim by the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company — an early player in long-distance wireless communication — that it was not far off from the realization of a pocket-sized wireless phone, as described in a widely syndicated March 1919 wire report:

London, March 2 — Experiments in a new type of wireless telephone are so far advanced that it is proposed within a few weeks it will be possible to speak between London and New York. While the establishment of a regular commercial service by wireless telephone between London and New York early next year is expected by the Marconi company, according to a statement by Godfrey C. Isaacs, managing director of the company, to a correspondent of the Daily Mail.

An early realization of pocket wireless telephone is also foreshadowed by Mr. Isaacs, who says that experiments have led him to believe that the pocket wireless will be in everyday use at no distant date.

Also on Snopes:

Sources

"Predicts Pocket Wireless Telephone." Omaha Daily Bee, 3 Mar. 1919, p. 1. newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/clip/115059969/predicts-pocket-wireless-telephone/.

The Pocket Telephone: When It Will Ring! https://archive.cartoons.ac.uk/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=WH0933&pos=124. Accessed 23 Dec. 2022.

Alex Kasprak is an investigative journalist and science writer reporting on scientific misinformation, online fraud, and financial crime.

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