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5 Things You Need to Know About Columbus (Day)

Christopher Columbus sailed in the ocean blue in the year of 1492—schoolchildren everywhere know that ditty. But what do you really know about the man who inspired today’s holiday? Here are five Columbus facts.

The mystique of Christopher Columbus looms large. Generations of books have heralded him as the man who discovered the Americas (much to the presumed surprise of the people who already lived here) after arduous journeys. Other scholars have debunked these stories.

Whether you loudly proclaim your Columbus love or have doubts about his deeds, don’t let this holiday go by without learning these fives facts about Christopher Columbus and Columbus Day.

1. He was born into poverty and became the greatest explorer of his time. No wait, Columbus was born into a wealthy, influential family and used his connections to work his way to the top. Like much about Columbus, his life story has been exaggerated in many accounts. Here’s what we know for sure: Columbus lived 1451-1506. He was born in Genoa, Italy as the oldest of five children and died in Valladolid, Spain. He had two sons from two different women.

2. Discovering the “New World” and giving Americans off the second October of each year wasn’t Columbus’ goal when he set sail from Spain. He was searching for a shorter route to China and guaranteed trade riches that would come from such a discovery. The explorer didn’t realize an entire continent lay between Europe and Asia, and that China wasn’t just a short westward journey away. Columbus believed he landed on Asian soil, and he died believing that. He even made crews on the second voyage swear they were in Asia—and threatened he would cut off the tongues of those who didn’t fall in line.

3. At least those sailors were just threatened. Columbus’ treatment of native populations was much worse. He and his underlings enslaved people of Hispaniola, forcing everyone older than 14 to mine for gold. Settlers cut off noses and ears of native people who rebelled. Settlers who rebelled against the harsh living conditions, lack of promised gold and perceived mismanagement of the colony were hanged—an action that led to Columbus’ eventual arrest and return to Spain in shackles.

4. Columbus Day became an official federal holiday in 1937, although some states informally celebrated it much earlier. The first known Columbus Day celebration was in New York for the 300th anniversary of the 1492 voyage, according to the History Channel. Originally, Columbus Day was always on Oct. 12, but was changed to become the second Monday in October.

5. Christopher Columbus is one of only two people to get a holiday named after him; the other is Martin Luther King Jr. George Washington comes close, but his holiday is known as Washington’s Birthday, but not George Washington Day. And he barely has that anymore. Although the federal government still calls it Washington’s Birthday, entities from used car lots to school districts normally ditch that in favor of Presidents Day to recognize both Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

luis cabrera October 10, 2011 at 06:21 PM
Columbus was a thief ,a rapist and a murderer ,and when columbus came to America they were people living here ,called native americans
zariyanacanada October 08, 2012 at 01:16 PM
that is true but at least we have a Columbus day that some people don't need to go to work or school
Ric October 08, 2012 at 02:25 PM
And I guess you think that the Indians sang Kumbaya my lord during their basket weaving classes. Do you also assume the Indians lived in perfect harmony with their neighbors? Of course they did when they weren’t killing and eating each other. Columbus's discovering the passage to the New World lead to development of the world that you now live in. Since you are not happy living in this world, why don't you toss your computer and all your “bling’, move to the Amazon. And take with all your stereotypical complaints against United States of America. Please live blessedly happy munching dead sticks and twigs. And I'll force myself to live here. PS: I do have some Native ancestry – probably more than you do Bye! Bye! Have a nice flight to the Amazon.
FbS October 08, 2012 at 03:23 PM
This is the first year we did not take our family to Johnsons farms in Medford to pick pumpkins and get apple cider doughnuts :( in probably 10 years.
redneckwillie3 October 08, 2012 at 03:36 PM
I thought he discovered Ohio. or is this Latin America Adios Amigo
agent itchy October 09, 2012 at 10:15 PM
FDR made Columbus Day a holiday to pander to the Italian vote. Approximately 20,000 years ago the first Native Americans came over a land bridge between Asia and North America. This bridge was over 1,000 miles wide. In 1492 about one million American Indians lived in the United States and Canada and about 20 million million Indians lived in South America. In 1000 A. D. sailors Vikings from Norway traveled from Iceland to Greenland lead by Eric the Red. Later his son, Leif Ericson, lead a group to Newfoundland in Canada. In 1965 a Viking map dated 1440 was found. The Viking map showed parts of northeastern Canada. About the same time Columbus was making his third voyage another explorer sailed for North America. His name was Americus Vespucius. Vespucius made maps of his travels. A German school teacher who was writing a new geography book found these maps. The school teacher called the New World America in honor of Vespucius.

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