Christopher Columbus (/kəˈlʌmbəs/; Ligurian: Cristoffa Corombo; Italian: Cristoforo Colombo; Spanish: Cristóbal Colón; before 31 October 1451 – 20 May 1506) was an Italian explorer and navigator who completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean, opening the way for European exploration and colonization of the Americas. His expeditions, sponsored by the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, were the first European contact with the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.
The name Christopher Columbus is the Anglicisation of the Latin Christophorus Columbus. His name in Ligurian is Cristoffa Corombo, in Italian Cristoforo Colombo, and in Spanish Cristóbal Colón. He was born before 31 October 1451 in the territory of the Republic of Genoa (now part of modern Italy), though the exact location remains disputed. His father was Domenico Colombo, a wool weaver who worked both in Genoa and Savona and who also owned a cheese stand at which young Christopher worked as a helper. His mother was Susanna Fontanarossa. He had three brothers, Bartolomeo, Giovanni Pellegrino, and Giacomo. He also had a sister named Bianchinetta. His brother Bartolomeo worked in a cartography workshop in Lisbon for at least part of his adulthood.
Under the Mongol Empire's hegemony over Asia (the Pax Mongolica, or Mongol peace), Europeans had long enjoyed a safe land passage, the Silk Road, to the Indies (then construed roughly as all of south and east Asia) and China, which were sources of valuable goods such as spices and silk. With the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the land route to Asia became much more difficult and dangerous. Portuguese navigators tried to find a sea way to Asia.
Columbus never wrote in his native language, which is presumed to have been a Genoese variety of Ligurian: his name in the 16th-century Genoese language would have been Cristoffa Corombo (Ligurian pronunciation: [kriˈʃtɔffa kuˈɹuŋbu]). In one of his writings, he says he went to sea at the age of 10. In 1470, the Columbus family moved to Savona, where Domenico took over a tavern. In the same year, Christopher was on a Genoese ship hired in the service of René of Anjou to support his attempt to conquer the Kingdom of Naples. Some modern authors have argued that he was not from Genoa but, instead, from the Aragon region of Spain or from Portugal. These competing hypotheses have generally been discounted by mainstream scholars.
In 1470, the Florentine astronomer Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli suggested to King Afonso V of Portugal that sailing west across the Atlantic would be a quicker way to reach the Spice Islands, Cathay, and Cipangu than the route around Africa, but Afonso rejected his proposal. In 1474, Toscanelli sent Columbus a map with the notion of a westward route to Asia. In the 1480s, the Columbus brothers proposed a plan to reach the Indies by sailing west across the "Ocean Sea" (the Atlantic). However, this was complicated by the opening of the southeast passage to Asia around Africa by Bartolomeu Dias in 1488, when he reached the Cape of Good Hope (modern-day South Africa).
In 1473, Columbus began his apprenticeship as business agent for the important Centurione, Di Negro and Spinola families of Genoa. Later, he allegedly made a trip to Chios, an Aegean island then ruled by Genoa. In May 1476, he took part in an armed convoy sent by Genoa to carry valuable cargo to northern Europe. He probably docked in Bristol, England, and Galway, Ireland. A few writers speculate that in 1477, he was in Iceland. It is known that in the autumn of 1477, he sailed on a Portuguese ship from Galway to Lisbon, where he found his brother Bartolomeo, and they continued trading for the Centurione family. Columbus based himself in Lisbon from 1477 to 1485. He married Filipa Moniz Perestrelo, daughter of the Porto Santo governor and Portuguese nobleman of Lombard origin Bartolomeu Perestrello.
In 1479 or 1480, his son Diego Columbus was born. Between 1482 and 1485, Columbus traded along the coasts of West Africa, reaching the Portuguese trading post of Elmina at the Guinea coast (in present-day Ghana). Before 1484, Columbus returned to Porto Santo to find that his wife had died. He returned to Portugal to settle her estate and take his son Diego with him. He left Portugal for Castile in 1485, where he found a mistress in 1487, a 20-year-old orphan named Beatriz Enríquez de Arana. It is likely that Beatriz met Columbus when he was in Córdoba, a gathering site of many Genoese merchants and where the court of the Catholic Monarchs was located at intervals. Beatriz, unmarried at the time, gave birth to Columbus's natural son Fernando Columbus in July 1488, named for the monarch of Aragon. Columbus recognized the boy as his offspring. Columbus entrusted his older, legitimate son Diego to take care of Beatriz and pay the pension set aside for her following his death, but Diego was negligent in his duties.
Columbus sought an audience from the monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, who had united several kingdoms in the Iberian Peninsula by marrying and were ruling together. On 1 May 1486, permission having been granted, Columbus presented his plans to Queen Isabella, who, in turn, referred it to a committee. After the passing of much time, the savants of Spain, like their counterparts in Portugal, replied that Columbus had grossly underestimated the distance to Asia. They pronounced the idea impractical and advised their Royal Highnesses to pass on the proposed venture. To keep Columbus from taking his ideas elsewhere, and perhaps to keep their options open, the Catholic monarchs gave him an allowance, totaling about 14,000 maravedis for the year, or about the annual salary of a sailor. In May 1489, the queen sent him another 10,000 maravedis, and the same year the monarchs furnished him with a letter ordering all cities and towns under their domain to provide him food and lodging at no cost.
By about 1484, Columbus presented his plans to King John II of Portugal. He proposed that the king equip three sturdy ships and grant Columbus one year's time to sail out into the Atlantic, search for a western route to the Orient, and return. Columbus also requested he be made "Great Admiral of the Ocean", appointed governor of any and all lands he discovered, and given one-tenth of all revenue from those lands. The king submitted Columbus's proposal to his experts, who rejected it. It was their considered opinion that Columbus's estimation of a travel distance of 2,400 miles (3,860 km) was far too low. Columbus traveled from Portugal to both Genoa and Venice, but he received encouragement from neither. In 1488, Columbus again appealed to the court of Portugal, resulting in John II again inviting him for an audience. That meeting also proved unsuccessful, in part because not long afterwards Bartolomeu Dias returned to Portugal with news of his successful rounding of the southern tip of Africa (near the Cape of Good Hope).
Another storm forced him into the port at Lisbon. He anchored next to the King's harbor patrol ship on 4 March 1493 in Portugal. There, he was interviewed by Bartolomeu Dias, who had rounded the Cape of Good Hope a few years earlier, in 1488–1489. Dias's success had complicated Columbus's attempts to secure funding from the Portuguese court because the sure route to the Indies that Dias pioneered made a risky, conjectural western route unnecessary. Not finding King John II of Portugal in Lisbon, Columbus wrote a letter to him and waited for John's reply. John asked Columbus to go to Vale do Paraíso north of Lisbon to meet him. Relations between Portugal and Castile were poor at the time. Columbus went to meet with John at Vale do Paraíso. Hearing of Columbus's voyage, John told him that he believed the voyage to be in violation of the 1479 Treaty of Alcáçovas.
Columbus also dispatched his brother Bartholomew to the court of Henry VII of England to inquire whether the English crown might sponsor his expedition, but he was captured by pirates in the process, and only arrived in early 1491. By that time, Columbus had retreated to La Rábida Friary, where the Spanish crown sent him 20,000 maravedis to buy new clothes and instructions to return to the Spanish court for renewed discussions.
Columbus is often credited with refuting a prevalent belief in a flat Earth. However, this legacy is a popular misconception. To the contrary, the spherical shape of the Earth had been known to scholars since antiquity, and was common knowledge among sailors. Coincidentally, the oldest surviving globe of the Earth, the Erdapfel, was made in 1492, just before Columbus's return to Europe. As such it contains no sign of the Americas and yet demonstrates the common belief in a spherical Earth.
The debate over Columbus's legacy continues. He was widely venerated in the centuries after his death, but public perception has fractured in recent decades as scholars give greater attention to the harm committed under his governance, particularly the near extermination of the indigenous Taino population from mistreatment and European diseases. According to Columbus's journals, in 1492 he took some natives prisoner in an attempt to find gold, and by 1498 had determined there was great potential for selling the indigenous into slavery. There is good evidence that his men subjugated and enslaved well over a thousand natives. Some other allegations, such as tyrannical rule over the Spanish colonists, are murkier: a contemporaneous, persistent smear campaign called the "black legend" makes the extent of Columbus's blame uncertain. Many landmarks and institutions in the Western Hemisphere bear his name, including the country of Colombia and the name Columbia, which is used as a personification for the United States, and appears in many place names there.
Though Columbus was wrong about the number of degrees of longitude that separated Europe from the Far East and about the distance that each degree represented, he did possess valuable knowledge about the trade winds, which would prove to be the key to his successful navigation of the Atlantic Ocean. During his first voyage in 1492, the brisk trade winds from the east, commonly called "easterlies", propelled Columbus's fleet for five weeks, from the Canary Islands to The Bahamas. The precise first land sighting and landing point was San Salvador Island. To return to Spain against this prevailing wind would have required several months of an arduous sailing technique, called beating, during which food and drinkable water would probably have been exhausted.
Columbus waited at King Ferdinand's camp until Ferdinand and Isabella conquered Granada, the last Muslim stronghold on the Iberian Peninsula. In January 1492, they received Columbus in Córdoba, in the Alcázar castle. Isabella turned him down on the advice of her confessor. Columbus was leaving town by mule in despair when Ferdinand intervened. Isabella then sent a royal guard to fetch him. Ferdinand later claimed credit for being "the principal cause why those islands were discovered".
In the April 1492 "Capitulations of Santa Fe", King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella promised Columbus that if he succeeded he would be given the rank of Admiral of the Ocean Sea and appointed Viceroy and Governor of all the new lands he could claim for Spain. He had the right to nominate three persons, from whom the sovereigns would choose one, for any office in the new lands. He would be entitled to 10 percent of all the revenues from the new lands in perpetuity. Additionally, he would also have the option of buying one-eighth interest in any commercial venture with the new lands and receive one-eighth of the profits.
Columbus's early life is somewhat obscure, but scholars generally agree that he was born in the Republic of Genoa and spoke a dialect of Ligurian as his first language. He went to sea at a young age and travelled widely, as far north as the British Isles (and possibly Iceland) and as far south as what is now Ghana. He married Portuguese noblewoman Filipa Moniz Perestrelo and was based in Lisbon for several years, but later took a Castilian mistress; he had one son with each woman. Though largely self-educated, Columbus was widely read in geography, astronomy, and history. He formulated a plan to seek a western sea passage to the East Indies, hoping to profit from the lucrative spice trade. Following persistent lobbying, Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II agreed to sponsor a journey west, in the name of the Crown of Castile. Columbus left Castile in August 1492 with three ships, and after a stopover in the Canary Islands made landfall in the Americas on 12 October (later celebrated as Columbus Day). His landing place was an island in the Bahamas, known by its native inhabitants as Guanahani; its exact location is uncertain. Columbus subsequently visited the islands now known as Cuba and Hispaniola, establishing a colony in what is now Haiti: the first European settlement in the Americas since the Norse colonies nearly 500 years earlier. He arrived back in Castile in early 1493, bringing a number of captive natives with him. Word of his voyages soon spread throughout Europe.
On the evening of 3 August 1492, Columbus departed from Palos de la Frontera with three ships. The largest was a carrack (Spanish: nao), the Santa María ex-Gallega ("Galician") . The other two were smaller caravels. The name of one is lost: it is known today only by the nickname Pinta, which in Castilian of the time meant "painted one". The Santa Clara was nicknamed affectionately the Niña ("the little one"), a pun on the name of her owner, Juan Niño of Moguer. The monarchs forced the citizens of Palos to contribute to the expedition. The Santa María was owned by Juan de la Cosa and captained by Columbus. The Pinta and the Niña were piloted by the Pinzón brothers (Martín Alonso and Vicente Yáñez).
The indigenous people he encountered, the Lucayan, Taíno, and Arawak, were peaceful and friendly. He called the inhabitants of the lands that he visited indios (Spanish for "Indians"). Noting their gold ear ornaments, Columbus took some of the Arawaks prisoner and insisted that they guide him to the source of the gold. From the entry in his journal of 12 October 1492, in which he wrote of them: "Many of the men I have seen have scars on their bodies, and when I made signs to them to find out how this happened, they indicated that people from other nearby islands come to San Salvador to capture them; they defend themselves the best they can. I believe that people from the mainland come here to take them as slaves. They ought to make good and skilled servants, for they repeat very quickly whatever we say to them. I think they can very easily be made Christians, for they seem to have no religion. If it pleases our Lord, I will take six of them to Your Highnesses when I depart, in order that they may learn our language." Columbus noted that their primitive weapons and military tactics made them susceptible to easy conquest, writing, "these people are very simple in war-like matters … I could conquer the whole of them with 50 men, and govern them as I pleased."
Columbus made three further voyages to the New World, exploring the Lesser Antilles in 1493, Trinidad and the northern coast of South America in 1498, and the eastern coast of Central America in 1502. Many of the names he gave to geographical features—particularly islands—are still in use. He continued to seek a passage to the East Indies, and the extent to which he was aware that the Americas were a wholly separate landmass is uncertain. He never clearly renounced his belief that he had reached the Far East and gave the name indios ("Indians") to the indigenous peoples he encountered. Columbus's strained relationship with the Spanish crown and its appointed colonial administrators in America led to his arrest and removal from Hispaniola in 1500, and later to protracted litigation over the benefits that he and his heirs claimed were owed to them by the crown. Columbus's expeditions inaugurated a period of exploration, conquest, and colonization that lasted for centuries, helping create the modern Western world. The transfers between the Old World and New World that followed his first voyage are known as the Columbian exchange, and the period of human habitation in the Americas prior to his arrival is referred to as the Pre-Columbian era.
Some of these accounts may be part of the Black Legend, an intentional defamation of Spain, while others challenge the genocide narrative. Noble David Cook, writing about the Black Legend and the conquest of the Americas wrote, "There were too few Spaniards to have killed the millions who were reported to have died in the first century after Old and New World contact". He instead estimates that the death toll was caused by diseases like smallpox, which according to some estimates had an 80–90% fatality rate in Native American populations. Disease played a significant role in the destruction of the natives. Indirect evidence suggests that some serious illness may have arrived with the 1500 colonists who accompanied Columbus's second expedition in 1493.
On 13 January 1493, Columbus made his last stop of this voyage in the New World, in the Bay of Rincón at the eastern end of the Samaná Peninsula in northeast Hispaniola. There he encountered the warlike Cigüayos, the only natives who offered violent resistance during his first voyage to the Americas. The Cigüayos refused to trade the amount of bows and arrows that Columbus desired; in the ensuing clash one Ciguayo was stabbed in the buttocks and another wounded with an arrow in his chest. Because of this and because of the Cigüayos' use of arrows, he called the inlet where he met them the Bay of Arrows (or Gulf of Arrows). Columbus captured about 10 to 25 natives and took them back with him (only seven or eight of the natives arrived in Spain alive).
After spending more than a week in Portugal, and paying his respects to Eleanor of Viseu, Columbus again set sail for Spain. Ferdinand Magellan was a young boy and a ward of Eleanor's court; it is likely he saw Columbus during this visit. After departing, and after reportedly being saved from assassins by King John, Columbus crossed the bar of Saltes and entered the harbor of Palos de la Frontera on 15 March 1493. Word of his finding new lands rapidly spread throughout Europe.
Columbus left the port of Cádiz on 24 September 1493, with a fleet of 17 ships carrying 1,200 men and the supplies to establish permanent colonies in the New World. The passengers included priests, farmers, and soldiers, who would be the new colonists. This reflected the new policy of creating not just "colonies of exploitation", but also "colonies of settlement" from which to launch missions dedicated to converting the natives to Christianity. Modern studies suggest that "crew members may have included free black Africans who arrived in the New World about a decade before the slave trade began".
When Columbus fell ill in 1495, "what little restraint he had maintained over his men disappeared as he went through a lengthy period of recuperation. The troops went wild, stealing, killing, raping, and torturing natives, trying to force them to divulge the whereabouts of the imagined treasure-houses of gold." According to Las Casas, 50,000 natives perished during this period, although Las Casas' account has been criticized by modern historians as lacking objectivity and his population estimates are often dismissed. Upon his recovery, Columbus organized his troops' efforts, forming a squadron of several hundred heavily armed men and more than twenty attack dogs. Dogs were used to hunt down natives who attempted to flee. Columbus's men tore across the land, killing thousands of sick and unarmed natives. Soldiers would use their captives for sword practice, attempting to decapitate them or cut them in half with a single blow.
On 30 May 1498, Columbus left with six ships from Sanlúcar, Spain, for his third trip to the New World. Three of the ships headed directly for Hispaniola with much-needed supplies, while Columbus took the other three in an exploration of what might lie to the south of the Caribbean islands he had already visited, including a hoped-for passage to continental Asia.
In poor health, Columbus returned to Hispaniola on 19 August, only to find that many of the Spanish settlers of the new colony were in rebellion against his rule, claiming that Columbus had misled them about the supposedly bountiful riches of the New World. A number of returning settlers and sailors lobbied against Columbus at the Spanish court, accusing him and his brothers of gross mismanagement. Columbus had some of his crew hanged for disobedience. He had an economic interest in the enslavement of the Hispaniola natives and for that reason was not eager to baptize them, which attracted criticism from some churchmen. An entry in his journal from September 1498 reads: "From here one might send, in the name of the Holy Trinity, as many slaves as could be sold ..."
Following his first voyage, Columbus was appointed Viceroy and Governor of the Indies under the terms of the Capitulations of Santa Fe. In practice, this primarily entailed the administration of the colonies in the island of Hispaniola, whose capital was established in Santo Domingo. By the end of his third voyage, Columbus was physically and mentally exhausted, his body wracked by arthritis and his eyes by ophthalmia. In October 1499, he sent two ships to Spain, asking the Court of Spain to appoint a royal commissioner to help him govern.
Columbus was eventually forced to make peace with the rebellious colonists on humiliating terms. In 1500, the Crown had him removed as governor, arrested, and transported in chains to Spain (see "Accusations of tyranny" section below). He was eventually freed and allowed to return to the New World, but not as governor.
Columbus was later arrested in 1500 and dismissed from his posts. He and his sons, Diego and Fernando, then conducted a lengthy series of court cases against the Castilian crown, known as the pleitos colombinos, alleging that the Crown had illegally reneged on its contractual obligations to Columbus and his heirs. The Columbus family had some success in their first litigation, as a judgment of 1511 confirmed Diego's position as Viceroy, but reduced his powers. Diego resumed litigation in 1512, which lasted until 1536, and further disputes continued until 1790.
By this time, accusations of tyranny and incompetence on the part of Columbus had also reached the Court. Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand responded by removing Columbus from power and replacing him with Francisco de Bobadilla, a member of the Order of Calatrava. Bobadilla, who ruled as governor from 1500 until his death in a storm in 1502, had also been tasked by the Court with investigating the accusations of brutality made against Columbus.
Before leaving for his fourth voyage, Columbus wrote a letter to the Governors of the Bank of Saint George, Genoa, dated at Seville, 2 April 1502. He wrote "Although my body is here my heart is always near you."
Columbus made a fourth voyage nominally in search of the Strait of Malacca to the Indian Ocean. Accompanied by his brother Bartolomeo and his 13-year-old son Fernando, he left Cádiz on 11 May 1502, with his flagship Santa María and the vessels Gallega, Vizcaína, and Santiago de Palos. He sailed to Arzila on the Moroccan coast to rescue Portuguese soldiers whom he had heard were under siege by the Moors.
On 5 December 1502, Columbus and his crew found themselves in a storm unlike any they had ever experienced. In his journal Columbus writes,
In Panama, Columbus learned from the Ngobe of gold and a strait to another ocean, but was told by local leader Quibían not to go past a certain point down the river. After much exploration, in January 1503, he established a garrison at the mouth of the Belén River. On 6 April, one of the ships became stranded in the river. At the same time, the garrison was attacked by Quibían and the other ships were damaged. Shipworms also damaged the ships in tropical waters.
Columbus left for Hispaniola on 16 April heading north. On 10 May he sighted the Cayman Islands, naming them "Las Tortugas" after the numerous sea turtles there. His ships next sustained more damage in a storm off the coast of Cuba. Unable to travel farther, on 25 June 1503 they were beached in St. Ann's Bay, Jamaica.
For one year Columbus and his men remained stranded on Jamaica. A Spaniard, Diego Méndez, and some natives paddled a canoe to get help from Hispaniola. The governor, Nicolás de Ovando y Cáceres, detested Columbus and obstructed all efforts to rescue him and his men. In the meantime Columbus, in a desperate effort to induce the natives to continue provisioning him and his hungry men, won their favor by predicting a lunar eclipse for 29 February 1504, using Abraham Zacuto's astronomical charts. Help finally arrived, no thanks to the governor, on 29 June 1504, and Columbus and his men arrived in Sanlúcar, Spain, on 7 November.
On 20 May 1506, aged around 54, Columbus died in Valladolid, Spain.
By the end of 1494, disease and famine had claimed two-thirds of the Spanish settlers. A native Nahuatl account depicted the social breakdown that accompanied the pandemics: "A great many died from this plague, and many others died of hunger. They could not get up to search for food, and everyone else was too sick to care for them, so they starved to death in their beds." When the pandemic finally struck in 1519, it wiped out much of the remaining native population. Charles C. Mann wrote "It was as if the suffering these diseases had caused in Eurasia over the past millennia were concentrated into the span of decades."
Columbus's remains were first interred at Valladolid, then at the monastery of La Cartuja in Seville (southern Spain) by the will of his son Diego, who had been governor of Hispaniola. In 1542, the remains were transferred to Colonial Santo Domingo, in the present-day Dominican Republic. In 1795, when France took over the entire island of Hispaniola, Columbus's remains were moved to Havana, Cuba. After Cuba became independent following the Spanish–American War in 1898, the remains were moved back to Spain, to the Cathedral of Seville, where they were placed on an elaborate catafalque. In June 2003, DNA samples were taken from these remains as well as those of Columbus's brother Diego and younger son Fernando. Initial observations suggested that the bones did not appear to match Columbus's physique or age at death. DNA extraction proved difficult; only short fragments of mitochondrial DNA could be isolated. These matched corresponding DNA from Columbus's brother, supporting that both individuals had shared the same mother. Such evidence, together with anthropologic and historic analyses, led the researchers to conclude that the remains belonged to Christopher Columbus.
Historically, the English had downplayed Columbus and emphasized the role of the Venetian John Cabot as a pioneer explorer, but for the emerging United States, Cabot made for a poor national hero. American navitists preferred Leif Erikson. Veneration of Columbus in America dates back to colonial times. The name Columbia for "America" first appeared in a 1738 weekly publication of the debates of the British Parliament. The use of Columbus as a founding figure of New World nations and the use of the word "Columbia", or simply the name "Columbus", spread rapidly after the American Revolution. This was out of a desire to develop a national history and founding myth with less ties to Britain. Columbus's name was given to the federal capital of the United States (District of Columbia), the capital cities of two U.S. states (Ohio and South Carolina), and the Columbia River. Outside the United States the name was used in 1819 for the Gran Colombia, a precursor of the modern Republic of Colombia. Numerous cities, towns, counties, streets, and plazas (called Plaza Colón or Plaza de Colón throughout Latin America and Spain) have been named after him. A candidate for sainthood in the Catholic Church in 1866, celebration of Columbus's legacy perhaps reached a zenith in 1892 with the 400th anniversary of his first arrival in the Americas. Monuments to Columbus like the Columbian Exposition in Chicago and Columbus Circle in New York City were erected throughout the United States and Latin America extolling him. The Knights of Columbus is a fraternal organization for Catholic men founded in 1882. While its initial membership was mainly Irish, they took Columbus as a symbol of Catholicism in America.
A lead box bearing an inscription identifying "Don Christopher Columbus" and containing bone fragments and a bullet was discovered at Santo Domingo in 1877. These bones were considered legitimate by physician and future United States Assistant Secretary of State John Eugene Osborne, who suggested in 1913 that the remains be placed on a battleship and travel through the Panama Canal as a part of its opening ceremony. Ultimately, it was decided not to do so. These remains were kept at the Cathedral of Santo Domingo before being moved to the Columbus Lighthouse. The authorities in Santo Domingo have never allowed the remains there to be exhumed, so it is unknown if any of those remains could be from Columbus's body as well.
The United States Postal Service participated in the celebration issuing the first US commemorative postage stamps, a series of 16 postage issues called the Columbian Issue depicting Columbus, Queen Isabella and others in the various stages of his several voyages. The issues range in value from the 1-cent to the 5-dollar denominations. Under Benjamin Harrison and his Postmaster General John Wanamaker the Columbian commemorative stamps were made available and were first issued at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, in 1893. Wanamaker originally introduced the idea of issuing the nation's first commemorative stamp to Harrison, the Congress and the U.S. Post Office. To demonstrate his confidence in the new Columbian commemorative issues Wanamaker purchased $10,000 worth of stamps with his own money. The Columbian Exposition lasted several months, and over $40 million in commemorative postage stamps had been sold. The 400th anniversary Columbian issues were very popular in the United States. A total of two billion stamps were issued for all the Columbian denominations, and 72 percent of these were the two-cent stamps, "Landing of Columbus", which paid the first-class rate for domestic mail at the time.
In 1909, descendants of Columbus undertook to dismantle the Columbus family chapel in Spain and move it to Boalsburg near State College, Pennsylvania, where it may now be visited by the public. At the museum associated with the chapel, there are a number of Columbus relics worthy of note, including the armchair that the "Admiral of the Ocean Sea" used at his chart table.
Columbus called the island (in what is now the Bahamas) San Salvador (meaning "Holy Savior"); the natives called it Guanahani. Exactly which island in the Bahamas this corresponds to is unresolved. Based on primary accounts and the geographic positions of the islands given Columbus's course, the prime candidates are San Salvador Island (so named in 1925 on the theory that it was Columbus's San Salvador), Samana Cay, and Plana Cays.
In 1992, a second Columbian issue was released that was identical to the first to commemorate the 500th anniversary, except for the date in the upper right hand corner of each stamp. These issues were made from the original dies of which the first engraved issues of 1893 were produced. The United States issued the series jointly for the first time with three other countries, Italy in lire, Portugal in escudos and Spain in pesetas.
Arriving in Santo Domingo while Columbus was away during the explorations of his third voyage, Bobadilla was immediately met with complaints about all three Columbus brothers: Christopher, Bartolomeo, and Diego. Bobadilla reported to Spain that Columbus regularly used torture and mutilation to govern Hispaniola. The 48-page report, found in 2006 in the national archive in the Spanish city of Simancas, contains testimonies from 23 people, including both enemies and supporters of Columbus, about the treatment of colonial subjects by Columbus and his brothers during his seven-year rule.