The NATIONAL ITALIAN AMERICAN FOUNDATION

Americans Celebrate 30th Anniversary of Columbus Day

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Elissa Ruffino (NIAF) 202/939-3106202/939-3106 or elissa@niaf.org

**October is also Italian American Heritage Month**

(WASHINGTON, DC – September 21, 2001) This year marks the 30th anniversary of the observation of Columbus Day as a legal, public holiday, reports the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF). It also marks the 25th anniversary of the designation of October as Italian American Heritage Month. The proclamation was made in 1976 by President Jimmy Carter.

The nation’s estimated 25 million Italian Americans, the fifth largest ethnic group in America, hold cultural and commemorative events in Columbus’ honor in October. “Columbus Day is not just a celebration of Columbus’ arrival, but a day Italian Americans share their heritage with all Americans,” said NIAF Chairman Frank J. Guarini. In Washington, DC, the NIAF supports an annual national ceremony on Monday, October 8, at the Columbus Monument at Union Station.

“Our heritage can only be maintained if we continue to commemorate the achievements of people like Columbus,” said NIAF President Joseph R. Cerrell. “The Italian explorer inspires us to lead lives of courage and determination.”

House Representative Robert McClory (R-Illinois) proposed Public Law 90-363 on June 28, 1968. It established the dates for several new federal holidays, including Columbus Day. The bill was passed and went into effect January 1, 1971, officially making Columbus Day the second Monday in October every year.

Christopher Columbus paved the way for the exploration of the Americas more than 500 years ago. Born in 1451 in the Republic of Genoa, an important sea-faring Italian state, Columbus took his first sea voyage at the age of 14. In all, he made four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean in search of the Orient and later died in poverty. His first voyage in 1492 lasted 33 days. On October 12, one of his sailors spotted land.

The first celebration of Columbus Day was held in this country soon after the American Revolution. On October 12, 1792, the New York Society of Tammany (also known as the Columbian Order) honored Columbus on the third centenary of his first voyage. In 1892, the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag was written in honor of Columbus Day. In 1909, New York State was the first to pass legislation declaring Columbus Day a holiday. Within a few years, October 12th became a legal holiday in more than 30 states. Indiana and North Dakota called the holiday “Discovery Day,” while Wisconsin called it “Landing Day.” Congressman McClory’s bill, supported by Congressman Peter Rodino (D-New Jersey) and 14 other sponsors, ensured that all 50 states would recognize the holiday annually.