12 Thought Provoking Examples of Irony in History

Irony doesn’t just exist in literature, it also exists in real life! We have a ton of really funny examples of irony lurking right in our history books. Take a look at funny examples of irony in history:

1. The New York Times and Crossword Puzzles

“The craze evidently is dying out fast.”

In 1925, The New York Times declared that crossword puzzles weren’t going to catch on, and that people would get bored of doing them on a weekly basis. Today, The New York Times is regarded as the gold standard for crossword puzzles, and publishes a new one every day.

2. The Discovery of Gunpowder

“An elixir of immortality.”

When ancient Chinese tribes found gunpowder for the first time, they obviously didn’t know what it was. We do have their journals and notes from that first discovery, and the lead scientist called the power “an elixir of immortality,” which is pretty ironic considering it has led to more deaths than any other substance.

3. Flying Glider

“This will revolutionize travel!”

Otto Lilienthal, creator of the flying glider, was killed by his own invention after declaring that it was one of the safest ways to travel, and would be safer than traveling by horse and buggy, or even by foot.

4. George Bush and 9/11

“Freedom and democracy will reign!”

George W. Bush and his administration handled the problems in the Middle East using the U.S. military after the events of 9/11, stating that only through American power could the Middle East achieve freedom and democracy.

5. JFK Assassination

“Mr. President you can’t say that Dallas doesn’t love you.”

Idanell “Nellie” Brill Connally, who was riding in the limousine with President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy, said this to him just before he was shot by a sniper and killed. It appeared that perhaps not everyone in Dallas loved the charismatic man.

6. Killer Plants

“Plant them everywhere!”

The U.S. government introduced the Kudzu vine into the ecosystem in the 1930s to prevent soil erosion. They recommended everyone plant the vine. However, instead of helping, the Kudzu chokes trees and plants that it grows near, climbs buildings, and destroys foundations.

7. Lead Poisoning

“Protect the children!”

In 1974, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission ordered that lapel buttons be printed to promote toy safety. However, those buttons were recalled for a number of safety concerns, including:

  1. containing lead paint
  2. being too sharp around the edges
  3. being a choking hazard for small children who swallowed the clip

8. The First World War

“The war to end all wars!”

H. G. Wells named WWI after he called it “the war that will end war.” However, it was actually the war that started all of the wars and created many of the modern problems that we have today. Plus, it was just a prelude to the deadlier WWII.

9. Printing Press

“The invention that changed the world forever!”

William Bullock, creator of the rotary printing press, got his leg caught in one of his machines. I became necessary to amputate his leg, after which he died from gangrene. Bullock was killed by his own invention before he saw the results of all of his hard work. However, his invention did indeed change the world.

10. Cane Toads and Cane Beetles

“Does one cane overwhelm the other?”

When Australia introduced the cane toad to their land, they hopes that it would stop the overpopulation of the cane beetle. Instead, they started a whole new infestation: cane toads. That infestation did more damage than the cane beetle ever did.

11. The Beatles

“Groups with guitars are on their way out.”

On January 1, 1962, four men named John, Paul, George, and Ringo auditioned at Decca Records, performing 15 songs in just under an hour. Famous producer of the time Mike Smith said that they were nothing special, and flat out refused to sign them. The group was signed at the next audition they played, and went on to become The Beatles.

12. James Dean

Heartthrob James Dean made many political and professional statements about the trouble with driving cars fast, mostly aimed at his teenage fans. However, James Dean was killed in a car crash while driving too fast.