Stamp collecting and first day covers: Columbus Day stamps & FDCs


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12 September 2014
imports_CCGB_ussroper1934columbus_91455.jpg USS Roper 1934, Columbus Day first day cover
In his latest stamp and FDC collecting article, Ed Fletcher provides a background to Columbus Day stamps & FDCs ...
Columbus Day stamps…  Discover a New World

The year in which Columbus (Colón in Spanish; Colombo in Italian) set sail on his remarkable voyage is probably better known than any other date in History by English, Spanish and Italian speaking nine-year-olds, according to researchers at Hasbro, makers of the board game Trivial Pursuit.

What the youngsters – and most adult players –  probably don’t know is that for decades before 1492 Columbus honed his navigation and sailing skills as a fisherman and a sea-captain exploring coasts from West Africa to Iceland. 

He also visited the Canary Islands and studied carved artefacts and strange vegetation that washed up on local beaches.

On one visit two bodies turned up. They were so little decomposed they helped to convince Columbus that land to the West must lie within reach of sailing ships. More importantly, he also observed that from the Canary Islands winds generally blew from east to west; while from the coasts of northern Spain they most often blew from west to east. Thus a clockwise voyage around the vast ocean might be undertaken.

Stamps and first day covers
Philatelists, young and old, can add that stamps and FDCs commemorating the culmination of the momentous voyage have been issued by many countries

In the USA, Columbus Day is celebrated on 12 October.

In the Bahamas Archipelago, where the explorer struck land, naming the  island San Salvador, they call it Discovery Day; in many South American countries they say Dia de la Raza (Day of the Race); while in Spain they prefer Día de la Hispanidad  (Spaniards’ Day).

Unofficial celebrations of the landing have taken place since at least the eighteenth century.

In 1792, New Yorkers marked the 300th anniversary with a huge carnival. By the time of the 400th anniversary in 1892 the event had become conflated by politicians, preachers and educationalists with concepts such as citizenship, patriotism and heritage.

However, it was not until the twentieth century (1934), during the presidency of FD Roosevelt, that Columbus Day became a federal holiday. 

Since 1970 the second Monday in October has become its official date. This occasionally coincides with United States Navy Day and accounts for Columbus Day FDC’s mailed from US Navy vessels.

Adventurous philatelists, prepared to explore the depths of ebay and other uncharted water of the stamp world will find First Day Covers from many countries with a wide range of price tags on offer.

Try it; YOU may discover a whole New World!

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