On August 3

On August 3, 1492, Christopher Columbus embarked on his first voyage to the Indies, only to arrive at want is now known as The New World. 

He left Palos de la Frontera on this day in history with three ships: Santa Maria, Pinta, and Nina. Their objective was to find a new route to China, India, and the rest of Asia through the Western sea, as it was believed it would be a lot shorter than the known Eastern route.

But the expedition it lead to is considered by many as the greatest discoveries of all time. 

Historical Significance 

In the 15th century, traveling to Asia from Europe on land was next to impossible because of the long travel times and the many armies one could encounter along the way. One solution was to travel via ship from the West African coast and around the Cape of Good Hope, which was generally accepted as a viable option.

But Christopher Columbus had an idea that hadn’t been really discussed until then: sailing across the Atlantic ocean and reaching Asia through the West. This idea was initially rejected, but after years of pressure, the Catholic Monarchs in Spain finally agreed to sponsor Columbus’ journey through the west, a move that would be done in the name of the Crown of Castile.

Columbus sets sail

Columbus then left the coast of Spain on August 3, 1492, and arrived in America on October 12 (which is now known as Columbus Day in the U.S.) of the same year. It is reported he landed somewhere in the Bahamas, though no exact location is known.

Columbus then went to Cuba and established a colony in the present-day Haiti, which was the first European settlement in the New World since the Norse colonies which settled nearly 500 years earlier. 

Though not the first-ever discovery of the New World, Columbus’ accidental arrival to the Americas was instrumental in shaping modern history and started centuries of European conquest and colonization. In a way, it is believed Columbus stumbled upon the new continent at the right time, meaning when the European powers were prepared enough to take advantage of the new land and act.

How It Unfolds

The most common day of celebrating Columbus’ discovery is October 12, the day he discovered the New World and not the day he set sail.

Many countries in America celebrate this day in history, apart from Canada. Spain and Italy also hold national celebrations of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America. However, this holiday and its celebrations have gathered many critiques over the years, and as a result, it’s popularity continues to decline

Christopher Columbus

Some Italian-American citizens continue to celebrate this day with street fairs and parades. In other areas, this day is used to educate people on Native American history and culture, which a lot of people feel was disrupted by Columbus’ arrival to the Americas. 

The primary goal for why Columbus left Spain on August 3, 1492, was to conquer and exploit new lands in the name of the Spanish monarchy. As he arrived in the Americas, Columbus and his crew began to pillage the land for riches and committed countless crimes in the process. There is a lot of proof that Columbus and his crewmen mistreated the locals and forced them to convert to Christianity.

Moreover, the Europeans brought over diseases which quickly killed entire communities of Natives. Because of all these dark spots in history, many people think it is not appropriate to celebrate Columbus Day or other similar national days which such fanfare, as it is a sign of disrespect to the Native Americans who were pillaged in the process. 

Instead, some propose to shift away from the celebration of this day to a more educational-based program where the accurate history of the discovery of the Americas and Native people is focused on. 

Related Events on That Date 

  • In 1527, John Rut sends the first known letter from North America (St. John’s, Newfoundland). The letter was sent to King Henry VIII, and contained a detailed description of Rut’s journey;
  • In 1804, Alexander von Humboldt arrives in Bordeaux, France, finally completing a 5-year expedition to Latin America. He is the first person to describe these lands from a scientific point of view. He is also believed to be one of the first people to describe the notion of human-induced climate change;
  • In 1882, the US Congress passed its first law restricting immigration. The Immigration Act of 1882, which defined undesirable people who will not be allowed access to the country, and gave enforcement power to the secretary of the treasury.

Famous Birthdays

1811: Elisha Otis

Elisha Otis was the founder of the Otis Elevator Company and the inventor of a safety device that keeps elevators from falling in the event the hoisting cable breaks. He also experimented with ovens and train brakes and patented several inventions, like the steam plow in 1857, a rotary oven, as well as the oscillating steam engine in 1860. He died in 1861, at age 49, of diphtheria. 

1926: Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett is a prominent American singer known for his jazz, show tunes, and big band styles. He is also the founder of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in New York. His first number-one song was ‘Because of You’, released in 1951 under Columbia Records. Other popular songs include ‘The Beat of My Heart’, ‘Rags to Riches’, and ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’. 

1941: Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart is a very successful American businesswoman, writer, and former model. She gained popularity through several of her business ventures and has managed to build quite a successful career in the public eye, mostly focusing on lifestyle advice given through different media platforms. 

Want to find out more about what went on this day in history? Check out this page for more historical moments from August 3.

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