Many people are familiar with the old Winifred Sackville Soner, Jr., poem The History of the U.S., which reads, in part,”In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. He had three ships and left from Spain, he sailed through sunshine, wind and rain”.
This past Monday, October 8th, Columbus Day was officially celebrated in the U.S. On the 519th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of “The New World”, we thought it would be interesting to provide some other quick, fun facts and figures about the man, Christopher Columbus, and the day named in his honor.
- Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy in 1451 and became a sailor at the mere age of 15.
- The city of Palos gave Columbus three ships for his expedition: The Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.
- In August, 1492, backed by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Columbus sets sail on “the ocean blue” intending to chart a western sea route to China, India, as well as gold and spice islands in Asia.
- Ninety men set sail with Columbus on his first voyage.
- It took 35 days for the first sailor to spot land.
- On October 12, 1492, Columbus landed in the Bahamas, becoming the first European to explore the Americas since the 10th century.
- Only two of Columbus’ three ships, the Nina and the Pinta, made the return trip to Spain. The Santa Maria ran aground on Christmas Day in 1492 and had to be scuttled.
- Columbus left behind 40 men from his crew on the island of Hispaniola because there was no room for them on the two remaining ships to make the return trip to Spain.
- Christopher Columbus stopped sailing “the ocean blue” in 1504 after three voyages to “The New World” realizing by then he hadn’t reached Asia but had stumbled on a continent previously unknown to Europeans.
- Columbus died in 1506 at age 55 just two years after his final voyage to “The New World”. Interestingly, Columbus grave site is unknown. He was buried and re-buried several times around the world including in Spain and what later became Haiti.
- In keeping with the mystery of where his final resting place is, there are no known portraits based on what Columbus actually looked like.
- In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison issued a proclamation encouraging Americans to mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage with patriotic festivities.
- In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed Columbus Day, October 12th, a national holiday.
- In 1971, the Columbus Day national holiday was moved to be officially celebrated on the second Monday in October.
- Although a national holiday, three states, Hawaii, Alaska, and South Dakota, do not recognize Columbus Day at all.