12 Historical Predictions That Completely, Utterly Missed the Mark

Elvis should stick to his day job? Excessive smoking plays a minor role in lung cancer? Check out these seriously “d’oh!” remarks from the wrong side of history.

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"Beatles for Sale" LP
Photo: Lenscap Photography/Shutterstock

On Not Signing The Beatles

Decca Recording Company expressed their opinion on signing the Fab Four in 1962–and it wasn’t positive: “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” But according to cbsnews.com, the Beatles have sold 1.6 billion singles in the U.S. and 177 million albums. So much for guitar music being “on the way out.”

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Harry Potter books
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On the Popularity of Harry Potter

Publishing executives sounded pretty positive that Harry Potter would be a flop when they wrote this to J.K. Rowling in 1996: “Children just aren’t interested in witches and wizards anymore.” They probably wish they could use an “obliviate” spell right about now.

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Man smoking cigarette
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On the Risks of Smoking

“If excessive smoking actually plays a role in the production of lung cancer, it seems to be a minor one,” said W.C. Heuper, the director of the National Cancer Institute’s Environmental Cancer Section, in 1954. Whoops.

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Former NBA player Michael Jordan
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On Drafting Michael Jordan

Rod Thorn, the Chicago Bulls general manager, didn’t have much hope for Michael Jordan when he said this in 1984: “I wish Jordan were 7-feet. But he isn’t. There just wasn’t a centre available. What can you do? Jordan isn’t going to turn this franchise around…he’s a very good offensive player, but not an overpowering defensive player.”

Here are 20 last words from history’s most famous people.

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Elvis Presley star on Hollywood Walk of Fame
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On Elvis Presley’s Musical Future

Eddie Bond, a radio host, didn’t think Elvis would make it as a singer when he said this in 1954: “Stick to your day job. You’re never going to make it as a singer.” Yet somehow, Elvis still managed to make money after he died, according to forbes.com–which is strange for someone who apparently wasn’t singer potential.

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Vintage telephone
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On the Future of the Telephone

According to a Western Union internal memo in 1876, telephones had “inherently no value to us.” Now, more people have more cellphones than toilets, according to time.com.

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Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office
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On Ronald Reagan as an Actor

The United Artists executive rejected Reagan as the lead for The Best Man, and claimed he didn’t have “that presidential look.” He ended up being the 40th president of the United States from 1981 to 1989.

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Margaret Thatcher
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On Electing a Female Prime Minister

In 1969, Margaret Thatcher didn’t believe that a woman would become prime minister in her lifetime. Ten years later, she became the first female prime minister of Britain from 1979 to 1990, according to biography.com.

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Vintage televisions
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On the Longevity of the Television

In 1946, Darryl Zanuck, a 20th Century Fox movie producer, didn’t foresee a bright future for the world of television: “Television won’t last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” According to a story published by The New York Times 70 years later, “On average, American adults are watching five hours and four minutes of television per day.”

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Women casting votes in early 1900s
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On Women’s Suffrage

If you’re female and you’ve ever voted, Grover Cleveland wouldn’t have considered you a “sensible and responsible” woman in 1905.

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Jungle in Vietnam
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On Vacationing in Vietnam

Around 1960, Newsweek encouraged readers to vacation in Vietnam to go on safaris.

None of these iconic tourist attractions in Southeast Asia will leave you disappointed!

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Historic steamboat in New Orleans
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On the Viability of a Steam-Powered Boat

When told of Robert Fulton’s steamboat in the 1800s, Napoleon Bonaparte didn’t have the time to listen to such nonsense: “How, sir, would you make a ship sail against the wind and currents by lighting a bonfire under deck?” According to sam.usace.army.mil, “The first successful steamboat was the Clermont, which was built by American inventor Robert Fulton in 1807.”

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest