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Brief History of Columbus Day

The first recorded celebration of Columbus Day in the United States was organized by the Society of St. Tammany on October 12, 1792, which commemorated the 300th anniversary of Columbus's landing. The 400th anniversary of the event inspired the first official Columbus Day holiday in the United States. In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison issued a proclamation urging Americans to honor Columbus.

According to the Library of Congress American Memory Project, the U.S. public "responded enthusiastically" to Harrison's proclamation, "organizing school programs, plays, and community festivities across the country." Examples such as Imre Kiralfy's "grand dramatic, operatic, and ballet spectacle Columbus and the Discovery of America,"  as the Memory Project reports,  is among the "more elaborate tributes created for the commemoration." However, the World's Columbian Exposition was "by far the most ambitious event planned for the celebration, opened in Chicago the summer of 1893."

In Colorado, the Italian-American community in Pueblo held Colorado's first Columbus parade in 1905.  In 1907, Senator Casimiro Barela, one of the first Hispanic Colorado senators, sponsored a bill in connection with Denver resident Angelo Noce proclaiming Columbus Day to be held as a public holiday on October 12. The bill was approved on April 1, 1907, making Colorado the first state to celebrate Columbus Day as a formal holiday.

In 1909, New York was the second state to declare Columbus Day a holiday. On October 12, 1909, New York Governor Charles Evans Hughes led a parade that included the crews of two Italian ships, several Italian-American societies, and legions of the Knights of Columbus. Since 1971 Columbus Day, designated as the second Monday in October, has been celebrated as a federal holiday.


[Taken in part from: Library of Congress American Memory Project and The American Book of Days. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1978]


2004 Transform Columbus Day Alliance