Columbus Day

President Roosevelt declared Columbus Day a national holiday in 1934. with the original day of observance on October 12th. Then in 1971, the hoilday was moved to the second Monday in October.

Christopher Columbus, was born in Genoa, Italy in 1451. He loved the sea and became a sailor at the age of fifteen years. Growing up, he had heard stories of Marco Polo and the Far East. Even though the rest of the world believed the world was flat, Columbus thought the world was round. He also knew that Europeans depended on the Far East for items like silk, gems and rare spices, but obtaining these luxuries was difficult and costly because of the long land route that had to traveled to the orient and back again, so Columbus decided to sail west in order to find a short route to the Far East.

Columbus first to went King Henry of Portugal to ask for ships and money needed for his exploration, but King Henry didn't believe that Columbus could make it to the east by going west, so he denied Columbus' request. Columbus didn't give up, though. Instead, he went to Spain and asked King Ferdinand and Queen Isabelle for ships, men, and money. The Queen said yes, but because there was a war going on at that time, so she told him he would have to wait until the war was over.

Columbus waited patiently until the war ended in 1492. Then Queen Isabelle gave Columbus three ships, 90 men, and the money he needed for his trip. On the third of August, 1942, Columbus set sail with the three ships, the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. These ships were nothing like the modern ocean liners that sail the oceans today. These little ships were made of wood and were very uncomfortable on long voyages. The ships had no sophisticated navigational devices, so Columbus had to navigate by using the stars and the moon. Columbus and his crew sailed to the Canary islands where they took on fresh supplies before heading for the open seas.

Columbus and his three ships had been at sea for about four weeks when the crew began to get worried. No one had ever been at sea for that long without seeing land and the sailors were afraid they would die at sea. Columbus had to be strong in the face of a possible mutiny. He told his men that if they did not see land in three days, they would turn back. He also offered a reward to the first man to spot land.

On the thirty-fifth day, they saw birds. That was a very good sign because birds do not fly to far away from land. Then at about 2 a.m., a sailor on the Pinta sighted land. On the morning of October 12, 1492, the men went ashore on the island that they named San Salvador. San Salvador is the island where Haiti and The Dominican Republic are today.

Some Interesting Facts
  • Columbus made three journeys from Europe to the New World, but he never actually set foot on North America.

  • Of the three ships that made the first voyage only two returned to Spain. The Santa Maria was run aground and had to be abandoned. Fourty members of his crew had to remain behind because there wasn't enough room on other two ships.

  • Columbus died in 1506 when he was only 55 years old. His death occured just two years after his thrid voyage to the New World.

  • Noone knows for sure where Columbus is buired since he has been reburied many times.

    Noone knows what Columbus looked like as there are no known portraits of him.