In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
Hundreds of years ago, the king and queen of Spain asked Christopher Columbus—an Italian navigator—to find a new way to get to Asia. At that time, the world wasn’t fully mapped out, so there were whole sections of the globe that were unknown to Europeans. Today, we have satellite images and smart phones that give us directions and let us see what the world looks like. But in those days, people had to actually sail around the world to discover new lands and map out trade routes.
So, in August of 1492, Columbus and his crew set sail from Spain on three ships—the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa María. A few months later, on October 12, the ships arrived on San Salvador Island—what we now call the Bahamas.
While Columbus wasn’t the first explorer to travel to the Western Hemisphere, his journey is notable because it opened the way for European settlers to come to “the New World,” and it unlocked a new trade route for European merchants.
Americans have celebrated Christopher Columbus and his accomplishments for generations. The first Columbus Day celebration took place in 1792 in New York. It became a federal holiday in 1937.