• Weird History

12 Historical Headlines That Could Not Have Been More Wrong

Hindsight is 20/20, but these incredibly wrong newspaper headlines are jaw-dropping. Some are haunting reminders to not count chickens before they hatch, while others are actually funny in their erroneous views on the world. Mostly, though, these historical headlines that were wrong are examples of how off the news can be. Journalism is about reporting the truth, but there are still times newspapers got it wrong.

Everyone knows the public face-palm that was "Dewey Defeats Truman!" but incorrect headlines go way beyond comedy. Some of these totally wrong headlines in history could have changed the world if they were true. What if no lives have been lost on the Titanic? What if nobody ever heard a peep from Hitler after 1924? And what if the death of Elvis really did end rock 'n' roll for good?

Get ready for a trip down memory lane, where most of the language is inaccurate, even more of it is offensive, and all of it was actually printed on paper.

  • No Lives Lost On The Titanic

    Photo: Retronaut / via Pinterest

    Headlines from the Vancouver Sun, the Vancouver Daily Province, and the World all reported that nobody had died on the Titanic the morning after the disaster. In reality, over 1,500 people died, including both passengers and crew members. Most of the survivors were women, children, and "higher class" passengers.

  • Washington Falls To The Confederacy

    Photo: Unknown / Newseum / Fair Use

    "Glorious news!" said this misinformed newspaper, reporting in 1862 that the Confederacy had taken Washington, D.C. This, of course, was not true; the South did not win the Civil War, and the conflict lasted for another three years.

    As for the newspaper's blotchy appearance, that comes from what it was printed on: wallpaper. A Union blockade made paper scarce in the South, so printers used whatever materials they could get their hands on.

  • Hitler Tamed By Prison

    Photo: feedly.com / via Pinterest

    On December 21, 1924, The New York Times claimed that Adolf Hitler was a changed man after a stint behind bars. They added that Hitler's "behavior during imprisonment convinced the authorities that, like his political organization, known as the Volkischer, was no longer to be feared. It is believed that he will retire to private life and return to Austria, the country of his birth." 

    Hitler published Mein Kampf a year later in 1925, and World War II started in September of 1939 when a Hitler-ruled Germany invaded Poland.

  • Dewey Defeats Truman

    Photo: flickr / CC0

    This is the most famous of all erroneous newspaper headlines. On November 3, 1948, the Chicago Tribune printed papers declaring Thomas Dewey the winner of the presidential election – before the final electoral count came in. Harry Truman, of course, won the presidency, and the image of him holding the Tribune is a memorable moment in U.S. history.

    For their part, the Tribune points to a printers' strike as a contributing factor to the error. They had to go to press hours earlier than they normally would, and running the headline seemed like a safe call. Everyone assumed Dewey would win in a landslide.