On this day in 1492, one of the sailors on the Pinta sighted land, an island in the Bahamas, after 10 weeks of sailing from Palos, Spain, with the Santa María, the Pinta, and the Niña.
The Italian explorer Christopher Columbus believed he’d reached East Asia. He sighted Cuba and thought it was China, and when the expedition landed on Hispaniola, he thought he’d found Japan.
Columbus Day has been celebrated since the 18th century, but only became a U.S. federal holiday in 1937. Interesting that Hawaii, Alaska, and South Dakota don’t recognize the holiday.
Many celebrate Italian-American heritage on Columbus Day.
Statue of Christopher Columbus Lavagna, Genova, Italy
Columbus’s contribution to world history was introducing Europeans to the New World, which led to cultural exchange, commerce, and exploration, and eventually to the discovery of the real westward route to the Indies.
But Columbus Day and the man who inspired it have also generated controversy.
Many argue that Europeans got land, slaves, and gold, while the aboriginals were dispossessed, enslaved, and infected.
Protests of Columbus Day celebrations resulted in the creation of Indigenous People’s Day in the 1990s, which coincides with Columbus Day.
When I think of Columbus Day, I think of the jingle I learned in school to remember the man’s accomplishment.
Christopher Columbus sailed in the ocean blue in 1492.
Turns out that’s only the beginning line of a much longer poem by Winifred Sackville Stoner, Jr., who was known for poems, rhymes, and mnemonic jingles to aid in the recollection of information.
Curious, I looked up the complete poem published in the anthology Yankee Doodles: A Book of American Verse, edited by Ted Malone and published in 1943 by Whittlesey House (NY and London).
“The History of The U.S.” by Winifred Sackville Stoner
In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue
And found this land, land of the Free, Beloved by you, beloved by me.
And in the year sixteen and seven, Good Captain Smith thought he’d reach Heav’n,
And then he founded Jamestown City, Alas, ’tis gone, oh, what a pity.
’Twas in September sixteen nine, WIth ship, Half Moon, a read Dutch sign,
That Henry Hudson found the stream, The Hudson River of our dream.
In sixteen twenty, pilgrims saw Our land that had no unjust law.
Their children live here to this day, Proud citizens of U.S.A.
In sixteen hundred eighty-three, Good William Penn stood ’neath a tree
And swore that unto his life’s end He would be the Indian’s friend.
In seventeen hundred seventy-five, Good Paul Revere was then alive;
He rode like wild throughout the night, And called the Minute Men to fight.
Year seventeen hundred seventy-six, July the fourth, this date please fix
Within your minds, my children dear, For that was Independence Year.
In that same year on a bitter night At Trenton was an awful fight,
But by our brave George Washington The battle was at last well won.
Two other dates in your mind fix—Franklin born in seventeen six,
And Washington first said “Boo-Hoo” In seventeen hundred thirty-two.
In seventeen hundred seventy-nine, Paul Jones, who was a captain fine,
Gained our first naval victory Fighting on the big, wide sea.
And in the year eighteen and four, Lewis and Clark both went before,
And blazed for us the Oregon Trail Where men go now in ease by rail.
In eighteen hundred and thirteen, On great Lake Erie could be seen
Our Perry fight the Union Jack And drive it from our shores far back.
In eighteen hundred and sixty-one, An awful war was then begun
Between the brothers of our land, Who now together firmly stand.
In eighteen hundred sixty-three, Each slave was told that he was free
By Lincoln, with whom few compare In being kind and just and fair.
In eighteen hundred eighty-one, At Panama there was begun
By good De Lesseps, wise and great, The big canal, now our ship’s gate.
At San Juan, eighteen ninety-eight, Our brave Rough Riders lay in wait,
And on the land brought victory, While Dewey won it on the sea.
In nineteen hundred and fifteen, Was shown a panoramic screen
At San Francisco’s wondrous fair; All peoples were invited there.
But cruel war in that same year Kept strangers from our land o’ cheer,
And nineteen seventeen brought here The war that filled our hearts with fear.
Thank God in nineteen eighteen Peace on earth again was seen,
And we are praying that she’ll stay Forever in our U.S.A.
Are you celebrating Columbus Day or Indigenous People’s Day?
Me, I’m celebrating both and very thankful that my teachers never made me recite Stoner’s entire poem!