Can You Name the Historical Event from a Real-Life Headline?

By: Zoe Samuel
Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

They say history is written by the winners, but sometimes it's written by the media, too - who aren't exactly always the most dispassionate observer, but hopefully, they do generally get basic facts like the who, what, and where right. The most important events are thus not always the most memorable, thanks to bad or sloppy reporting, while some seemingly minor events can achieve viral fame immediately, simply by the virtue of a snappy headline. 

Whether you read the news or not, you've heard some of these straplines and headers - and if you haven't, but you're generally up on your world history, you can sometimes figure out what they're talking about. After all, you can't really not know about the moon landings, World War II, or the invention of penicillin. However, you may not know the details: when these things happened, who was involved, and what people at the time had to say about it (after all, we have a perspective on issues like slavery or the significance of the Wright Brothers that took time to evolve). 

So take this quiz to see if your knowledge of history and of journalism combined are savvy enough to deduce 35 historical events of note, simply from a brief headline!

____ sinks four hours after hitting iceberg

The Titanic actually sank a few days before this headline, but news moved slower then.

VE Day - It's All Over

VE Day stands for Victory in Europe, as opposed to victory everywhere. VJ day (Victory over Japan) was in August.

The First Footstep

This was how the Evening Standard introduced Neil Armstrong walking on the moon for the first time.

And Still They Come to Mourn Her

The Queen Mother was the mother of the current Queen, Elizabeth II. She was a national hero for her work and philanthropy during her life and also for her efforts in World War II, where she famously refused to leave London during the Blitz.

We Saw The Sea Coming: We All Ran. But God Saves Little.

The tsunami of Boxing Day, 2004, was caused by a massive earthquake under the Indian Ocean. The subsequent waves killed 250,000 people and leveled entire towns across multiple countries from Thailand to Indonesia to India to Sri Lanka. It remains the deadliest natural disaster in history.

____: Racial Barrier Falls In Decisive Victory

The election of Barack Obama by a massive margin over Republican candidate John McCain broke the highest racial barrier in the U.S. and proved that there was no role that a black American could not aspire to hold.

Headless Body in Topless Bar

A psycho broke into a Queens restaurant, shot the owner, and when finding out a female customer was a mortician, had her cut off the victim's head. It wasn't really a topless bar, but the headline was too good to pass up.

Axis of Weasel

This was a disparaging headline by the New York Post to comment on how several American allies - including France, Germany, and others - refused to back America going to war in Iraq to: a) punish Saddam Hussein for 9/11, b) take away Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, c) depose Saddam Hussein, or d) bring democracy to the Middle East (since Saddam Hussein was not involved in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and had no weapons of mass destruction, the publicly-stated reason for the war kept changing).

Dewey Defeats Truman

This headline is completely wrong. The paper was so sure that upset Republican challenger Dewey would beat incumbent Truman that they went to press in one of the famous screw-ups in electoral history.

Scientists describe 'secret of life'

This headline is about the discovery of the structure of DNA, for which credit was taken by Francis Crick and James Watson, and later shared with Rosalind Franklin.

Cabinet survives IRA hotel blast

The Conservative Party was having its annual conference in Brighton when the hotel was bombed by the IRA. Prime Minister​ Margaret Thatcher, who needed very little sleep, was awake despite it being 3 a.m. She, therefore, was already fully dressed and appeared looking immaculate and completely unruffled in front of the media. One member of Parliament was killed and five injured, but the main targets - Thatcher and her Cabinet - were unharmed. Instead of canceling the conference, Thatcher insisted that the local Marks & Spencer department store open early so everyone could buy clothes (as they had been evacuated from the hotel in their nightwear), and went ahead. She was said to be the only person wearing a non-M&S outfit.

Alabama Police Use Gas and Clubs to Rout Negroes

The march from Selma to Montgomery was a Civil Rights march lasting several days. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders peacefully walked across Alabama to show that they would not be cowed. It was a turning point in progress towards the Voting Rights Act and a more civilized society.

Tiger Puts Balls in Wrong Place Again

Tiger Woods was indeed a seemingly wholesome man revealed to be cheating on his unsuspecting wife - but this headline refers to him doing what is called an "improper drop" when moving his ball when given a penalty at the Masters. It was all part of his downward spiral.

_____ Canal now open to Commerce of the World

The construction of the Panama Canal was brought about by the Spooner Act which authorized Congress to pay for the canal. It transformed world trade by eliminating the need for ships to go all the way around Cape Horn on the southern tip of Chile.

16,000,000 Shares Sold On Wall Street

The Wall Street Crash of 1929 created a massive sell-off that led to plummeting stock values, a crash in real estate, and a years-long recession with mass unemployment.

_____ Crowned In Abbey; Millions Cheer Parade In Rain

Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in 1952 and remains the longest-reigning monarch in British history.

Hitler Tamed By Prison

This headline is unbelievably wrong, of course. Hitler put up a good front convincing people he was a rehabilitated man in 1924, but within a year he had published Mein Kampf and was preparing to smash up the existing world order. He ended up starting a war that killed 50 million people, of whom an estimated 6 million were murdered by his organized system of death camps. He certainly wasn't tamed in the '20s, but ​the world might have turned out better if he had been.

Roosevelt Is Asked To Intervene to Protect Scottsboro Negroes

The Scottsboro Boys were accused of assaulting two white women who were found riding a box car illegally with them. Despite the fact that both women said nothing happened, the nine men were subjected to trial after trial in a gross violation of their Constitutional Rights. Leader Hayward Patterson died in jail after 20 years. Their tragedy is one of the events that galvanized the Civil Rights movement.

____ Takes Over No. 10

Thatcher stormed into office in 1979 and won three elections. Love her or hate her - and most British people do, very strongly (one or other) - she helped bring about the fall of communism and is one of the most consequential prime ministers since World War II.

1500 Dead In Hawaii: Congress Votes War

The bombing of Pearl Harbor inspired the U.S. to join World War II against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan. President Roosevelt had already wanted to join the war which Allies like Britain and France were already fighting, so he was ready to sign the order after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

A Landslide Makes It President ____

President Reagan dislodged the widely unpopular and weak Jimmy Carter and ushered in his "Reagan Revolution" with a landslide.

Soviet Fires Earth Satellite Into Space

Sputnik was the first object ever to go into space, meaning the USSR proved its technological superiority, which it did again when it later put cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin into space. NASA was galvanized to be first to the moon, which it later achieved.

Space Shuttle Explodes, Killing Crew

The Challenger shuttle was carrying the first civilian to go into space: teacher Sharon Christa McAuliffe. Challenger had flown many missions before and was considered safe, but this time it blew up after launch. It is believed that the crew was alive to experience its plunge out of the sky and eventual final explosion at 74 seconds into the flight.

Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals

This headline is not accurate, but it is important: it is the first time the mainstream media commented on the developing HIV/AIDS epidemic. While AIDS does not only affect homosexual people, it was initially thought to be a "gay cancer" and LGBT people were stigmatized as a result. The Reagan administration refused to acknowledge its existence for several more years. Fortunately, in Britain, Thatcher's government was more forthcoming and educated the public. HIV/AIDS is now most common in Africa and has killed millions. Since the virus is preventable and now very treatable - though not curable - failure to act early and give it the resources it needed is considered largely responsible for many of those deaths.

Two Wings And A Prayer

US Airways flight 1549, piloted by Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, suffered double birdstrikes at 3,000 feet after leaving LaGuardia. Both engines flamed out. The pilots initially hoped to return to the runway or land at the nearby private Teterboro Airport but did not have the time. Sully made the decision to land on the Hudson and pulled off the first successful water landing of a commercial flight. No one died. The incident is known as the Miracle on the Hudson.

King ____ Dead

Elvis' death was caused by a massive heart attack, reportedly brought on by his drug use and dissolute lifestyle. "The King" was considered the voice of rock and roll, but the genre continued to thrive after his death.

Justice Has Been Done

This is the headline quoting President Barack Obama after he ordered the successful raid on the compound where Osama Bin Laden was hiding. Bin Laden is accused of murdering nearly 3,000 Americans in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. He evaded capture for nearly 10 years.

2000 Dead in Atom Horror

The meltdown of the badly-maintained nuclear plant at Chernobyl killed 2,000 people and prompted the evacuation of a town. Radiation scattered across Europe. The total death toll will never be known.

____ Surrenders to ____: Withdrawal Ends Role of US

The missing words are "Saigon" and "Vietcong". This headline marks the fall of the capital of Vietnam to the forces of communism, and America's subsequent withdrawal.

Looting And Fires Ravage LA

Rodney King was an African-American cab driver who was beaten to death by police. The incident was captured on video. King had been speeding and when the police caught him, instead of simply arresting him, they beat him. Witness George Holliday recorded the incident. The jury acquitted the cops and riots ensued.

Huge Dust Cloud Blown 1,500 Miles: Dims City 5 Hours

The Dust Bowl was a tragedy prompted by a combination of drought and irresponsible farming methods not suited to the relatively dry conditions of the Midwest. It led to the loss of 80- 90 percent of good topsoil from parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, and beyond. Millions faced starvation and moved to the cities, where they were often unable to find work due to the Great Depression's lingering effects.

3000 Dead: $300,000,000 Lost. San Francisco Is Obliterated.

The famous San Francisco earthquake of 1906 had an estimated magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter Scale. While most modern buildings might withstand this, in those days, it was no surprise that many died or were left homeless.

Glorious News! Washington City Certainly Taken

This southern newspaper had the wrong end of the stick. The Confederacy never took Washington and the Civil War lasted another three years, and the South's ultimate defeat.

Die Mauer Ist Weg! Berlin Ist Wieder Berlin!

This headline is about the fall of the Berlin Wall. Translation: "The wall is down! Berlin is Berlin again!"

Scumbag Millionaires

The Sun wrote this headline to note that no one involved in the crash that caused the Great Recession - when subprime mortgage bundling led to the economy's collapse - served any prison time for it.

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