Irony is most often defined as a contrast between expectations and realities in a circumstance. Throughout history there have been many examples of irony in a variety of different areas including politics, government, culture and media. Historical irony is most often recognized well after an original statement or occurrence since it often takes current perspectives to shed a greater light on a previous issue, statement or situation.
Examples of Irony in History
- New York Times, in the 1920’s often insulted the use of crossword puzzles. In 1925, after having already made a derogatory statement the prior year, the New York Times stated of crossword puzzles, “The craze evidently is dying out fast.” Decades later, extending into current times, the New York Times Sunday edition has the most recognized crossword puzzle.
- Discovered in the 9th century by the Chinese, gunpowder was found by alchemists attempting to find an “elixir of immortality.”
- Otto Lilienthal, creator of a flying glider, was killed by his own invention.
- The Bush administration handled the Middle East situation militarily after 9/11, stating that freedom and democracy could be brought to that population via the employment of American power.
- The denial of rights to slave via the Bill of Rights, when in 1856 the U.S. Supreme Court determined that the 5th Amendment preserved the rights of slaveholders to keep slaves.
- Just before being shot and killed, it was said to John. F. Kenney: “Mr. President you can’t say that Dallas doesn’t love you,” to which he responded, “That’s very obvious.”
- The introduction of the Kudzu vine into the U.S. in the 1930’s was intended to prevent soil erosion and the U.S. Government demanded that it be planted. Instead of performing its intended job of preservation of nature, Kudzu chokes trees and plants as it grows and climbs.
- Lapel buttons created by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in order to promote toy safety were recalled in 1974 for containing lead paint, having too-sharp edges and because the clips could break and be a choking hazard if swallowed.
- In the 1890’s, Australia’s gold rush uncovered massive amounts of calaverite. Calaverite is also known as gold telluride. The mineral was mistaken for gold and used for building material and street reparations. Years later, upon recognizing what the mineral was, there was another gold rush – to excavate.
- H.G. Wells called what is now known as the First World War “the war that will end war.” This phrase morphed several times to finally become “The War to End All Wars.” Its untruth is clear in the final name of that war including the word “First.”
- William Bullock, creator of the rotary printing press, was killed by his own invention.
- The introduction of cane toads to Australia was intended to help to prevent the overpopulation of the cane beetle. Instead, not only did it not prevent that overpopulation, it also resulted in the cane toads having an even worst pest invade their bodies.
Now you have seen plenty of examples if irony in history. Looking back at what has happened in the past is always interesting. For more examples, you can check out Examples of Irony.