Monday, October 8, 2018

Columbus Day: When and How?

Nina And Pinta Replica Ships Most of us learned the rhyme about Columbus sailing the ocean blue in 1492 when we were in school.  It is well known he was not the first to discover the Americas but he was the first one to make a claim for a European country.

Although he actually landed around the Bahamas, he is given credit for "discovering" the Americas on October 12, 1492.

The movement towards making it a Federal holiday began during President Harrison's tenure.

What is most interesting is that Columbus never actually set foot on what is now the United States and he was relatively unknown for the first two to three hundred years after he claimed this area for Spain.  It wasn't until the United States became an independent, an association between Columbus and this country grew.

Soon, places were named after Columbus such as the District of Columbus, the Columbus River, Columbus University.   Then in 1828, Washington Irving published a book on Columbus and his voyages.  At the time, its contents were accepted as gospel but it has since been found to be highly fictionalized.  However, it has left history with myths that persist to today.

At about the same time, Italians began moving to the United States, setting up pockets here and there throughout various cities.  Unfortunately, they faced  discrimination for both their religion and just being Irish.  In fact, several were lynched in New Orleans because it was thought they killed the police commissioner even though they didn't receive a proper trial.

It was just one year later that President Harrison made his decision to have people celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus's landing and claim of the Americas.  It was his proclamation that connected Columbus with American patriotism but he never really discussed Columbus's life, work, or race. 

The Italian Americans saw celebrating Columbus and his life as a way of being accepted by mainstream America rather than being discriminated against.  Italians across America began pushing to have Columbus Day celebrated and in 1906 Colorado became the first state to officially observe Columbus Day.

By 1910 a total of 14 other states joined Colorado in officially observing Columbus day but about the same time, there was a movement to recognize Leif Erikson as the person who discovered America which lead to Wisconsin to declare Leif Erikson day in 1930. This was about five years after President Coolidge told a crowd he believed Erikson discovered America. 

In 1937, Franklin D. Roosevelt, president at the time, implemented the first federal observance of the holiday but it was Richard Nixon who created the modern celebration by presidential decree in 1972.  There are a few states who have renamed this day to "Native American Day" or "Indigenous People's Day or "Discover's Day" but for the most part the federal government still recognized the second Monday of October as Columbus Day complete with closings of the Post Office and other federally run offices.

Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear, Have a great day.

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