Columbus day commemorates Christopher Columbus’s historic voyage in 1492, which has been wrongly described as his discovery of America; in fact, he landed in the West Indies. But the real accomplishment was proving conventional European wisdom wrong by demonstrating that the world did not end somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Here are some fun facts.
The first Columbus day celebration took 300 years to happen.
The Society of St. Tammany in New York organized the first observance of Columbus’s “discovery” of America in 1792. In 1866, the Italian population of New York decided to celebrate it again. President Benjamin Harrison proclaimed a 400th anniversary celebration in 1892.
It wasn’t until 1937, however, until President Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed October 12th — the actual date Columbus set foot on San Salvador Island in 1492 — as the official date for the annual holiday of Columbus Day. In 1971, Congress, hoping to create a guaranteed three-day weekend, moved the date to the second Monday of October.
Christopher Columbus set sail in August of 1492.
The names of his three ships were Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria and it was 35 days before one sailor of his 90 men crew spotted land.
What was Columbus looking for?
He was looking for a new way to China and India.
Nobody is sure what Christopher Columbus looked like.
There are no portraits known to exist.
Columbus was hard to keep track of after he died.
In 2006, forensics settled a century-old dispute between Spain and the Dominican Republic. Both claimed their respective countries were the final resting place of Christopher Columbus.
Columbus wanted to be buried in the Americas, but when he died in 1506, there was no established church that would take his remains. So he was buried in Valladolid, Spain. In 1509, his remains were moved to a monastery near Seville. In 1537, the widow of one of the explorer’s sons had the remains sent to the Santo Domingo cathedral. In 1795, the real confusion began. Spain shipped remains it believed to be those of Columbus to Havana, Cuba where they stayed until 1898. That’s when those bones returned to Seville. But in 1877, workers in that Santo Domingo cathedral found a box of bones with an inscription that indicated they were Columbus’s remains.
That’s how both countries managed to argue their sets of remains were the “real” ones.