The Ohio History Center will be closed on Monday, October 8th in recognition of Columbus Day, a day which memorializes Christopher Columbus landing in the Americas in 1492. The date has special significance for Ohio’s capital city as well. As you can see in the cartoon at right, for example, a cartoon version of the city’s namesake was often used to represent the city as a whole in cartoonist Billy Ireland’s work in the Columbus Dispatch. You can also visit a museum-quality replica of one of Columbus’s ships, the Santa Maria, floating on the Scioto River downtown, and the city used to hold a large parade each year on Coumbus Day, until the tradition ended in the mid-1990s.
Columbus Day has been celebrated unofficially since the late 1700s, but became a national holiday in 1937. President Benjamin Harrison also called upon Americans to celebrate the 400th anniversary in 1892, as seen in the photograph above, while 1992 saw the six-month exhibition known as Ameriflora, which was held in Columbus to honor the major milestone and concluded on October 12th of that year. The day has traditionally been used to reinforce the ideals of patriotism and citizenship, and has long been used as a time for celebration of Italian-American heritage.
It is important to mention that the holiday and its recognition on a national scale has not been without controversy. Early opponents were against the holiday’s association with immigrants and Catholicism, primarily due to the affiliation with the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization. More recent opposition has come from recognition of the destruction of native lands and peoples that was a direct result of Columbus landing in the New World, as well as criticism of Columbus himself and debates over whether he should get credit for “discovering” a continent that had been inhabited for thousands of years. In response, many communities, states and even countries celebrate alternative holidays, recognizing instead the themes of cultural diversity and Native American history.
We invite you to explore Ohio Memory this Columbus Day, and learn about our state and nation’s long history–both before and after 1492!
Thanks to Lily Birkhimer, Digital Projects Coordinator at the Ohio History Connection, for this week’s post!