Tag Archives: Leif Erikson Day

Vikings, the First Colonizers of North America: Part 3 – America Honors Leif Erikson


By T.V. Antony Raj


On October 9, 1825, the ship Restauration came into the New York Harbor with immigrants from Stavanger, Norway. It was the first organized official immigration of Norwegians to America.

Stories of Leif Erikson’s journey to Helluland (Baffin Island), Markland (Labrador coast) and Vinland (areas around the Gulf of St. Lawrence) in North America later helped the Nordic immigrants to the United States to identify themselves with pride with the great explorer of the new found land.

New England region of the Northeastern United States consists of the six states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. In the nineteenth century, the theory that Leif Erikson and his men visited New England gained popularity. Many believed that Cape Cod in Massachusetts could have been the Vinland of the Viking sagas.

Statue of Lief Erikson at Common Wealth Avenue, Boston (Source: wrightimages.com)
Statue of Lief Erikson at Common Wealth Avenue, Boston (Source: wrightimages.com)

In 1887, the first statue of Leif Erikson created by the American sculptor and poet Anne Whitney was erected on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts. It was followed by the erection of another statue of Leif Erikson in Milwaukee by Anne Whitney.

New England in the Northeastern United States consists of the six states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. In the nineteenth century, the theory that Leif Ericson and his men visited New England gained popularity. Many believed that Cape Cod in Massachusetts could have been the Vinland of the Viking sagas.

Norumbega Tower,  Weston, Massachusetts.

The Norumbega Tower, Weston, Massachusetts.


In 1889, Eben Norton Horsford, a Harvard Chemistry professor, erected the Norumbega Tower in Weston, Massachusetts at the confluence of Stony Brook and the Charles River.  He built it to mark the supposed location of Fort Norumbega, a Norse fort and city. The tower is approximately 38 feet tall, composed of mortared field stones with a spiral stone staircase.

Horsford believed that the Algonquin word ‘Norumbega’, means the general region that is now coastal New England. Convinced that the word “Norumbega” was derived from “Norvega” meaning Norway, he believed Norumbega was Vinland.

In 1901, the city of Chicago erected the statue of Leif Erikson that was commissioned for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.

In 1925, during the centenary celebration of the first official immigration of Norwegians in America, President Calvin Coolidge told a crowd of 100,000 people at the Minnesota State Fair that Leif Erikson had indeed been the first European to discover America.to America,

Replica of Leif Erikson’s Viking ship in Duluth

Visitors to the Leif Erikson Park and Rose Garden in Duluth, a seaport city in the State of Minnesota, USA, can view the replica of a Viking ship built in 1926 in Norway by local boat builder Christian Overlier for Captain Gerhard Folgero. It is not an exact replica of a Viking craft, but a representation of the same class and style of boat likely used by Leif Erikson himself.

The ship on display is a 42-foot wooden fembøring vessel patterned after the traditional Norwegian working craft constructed of fir or pine. Medieval Norse adventurers, explorers, traders, and fisherfolk used this type of crafts. Architects consider the dragon’s head and tailpiece fitted on the ship to be masterpieces.

Captain Folgero and his crew sailed the fembøring vessel from Bergen, Norway, to the coast of Labrador and beyond, following much of Leif Erikson’s original sea route. From Labrador, they reached Boston, covering in all 6,700 miles in 50 days. During their voyage, they faced hurricane-like winds, icebergs, and fog.

From Boston, they sailed on to Duluth to take part in a national convention of Norwegian emigrants invited by the Norwegian-American immigrant and businessman H.H. Borgen.

The crew landed in Duluth on June 23, 1927.

Bert Enger, a Norwegian immigrant and West End furniture dealer along with the wife of his late business partner, Emil Olson, purchased the Norwegian boat and presented it to the city of Duluth. The ship placed on display in Duluth’s Lake Park was later named Leif Erikson Park. The boat was once considered Duluth’s second-largest tourist attraction after the Aerial Lift Bridge.

In 1929, the Wisconsin Legislature passed a bill to make October 9 “Leif Erikson Day”.

A few have speculated that Norsemen may have penetrated as far as Minnesota, either down from Hudson Bay or going west through the Great Lakes. Some researchers suggest that the Mandan Indians showed evidence of being culturally influenced by pre-Columbian explorers from Europe. A Runestone with carvings of a Scandanavian nature was discovered near Kensington, Minnesota, dating to approximately 1030.

Statue of Leif Erikcson near the State Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Statue of Leif Erikcson near the State Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota.

On October 9, 1949, a statue of Leif was erected near the State Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota.

In 1964, the United States Congress authorized and requested the president to proclaim October 9, of each year as “Leif Erikson Day”.

U.S. commemorative stamp issued 9 October 1968, Leif Erikson Day.
U.S. commemorative stamp issued 9 October 1968, Leif Erikson Day.commemorative stamp issued 9 October 1968, Leif Erikson Day.

On October 9, 1968, Leif Erikson Day, the United States issued a commemorative stamp to honor Leif Erikson, the first Viking colonizer of North America.


← Previous: Part 2 – Leif Erikson






Hail Columbia!

Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

On October 8, 2012, Americans solemnly celebrated Columbus Day, marked by parades and pageantry, and mugs of fake red blood splashed on namesake statues.

A few activists consider this day as a “day of celebration of genocide. ” However, most of these protesters are unaware that the customary holiday they are protesting against previously performed an invaluable function in shaping a nation of people capable of being attentive to their issues.

Even today, Christopher Columbus is a compelling icon of American nationalism His name, transposed as Columbia, evolved into a historical and poetic term for the female embodiment of the United States of America. The American people situated their capital in the District of Columbia and adopted “Hail, Columbia!” as their unofficial anthem.

The Italian immigrants who arrived in thousands, in the later part of the nineteenth century, noticed the reverence paid to their celebrated countryman. However, they faced levels of hostility and discrimination based mainly on views that they displayed ignorance, lethargic or adverse to labor interests, and often portrayed as crude, hostile, and inassimilable into the American society, and subjected to abuse on account of their Catholicism. Several American nativists deemed Italians racially mediocre – the disparity being visible by their swarthy skins.

In 1891, New Orleans witnessed a terribly violent occasion, the lynching of 11 Italians – the largest mass lynching in American history. It provoked an international crisis. An editorial in the New York Times declared the Sicilians “a pest without mitigation.” It also asserted, “our own rattlesnakes are as good citizens as they.”

The animosity towards the Italians prompted many nativists to reject Columbus and search for a racially acceptable discoverer of the New World. They found him in a Viking explorer known as Leif Erikson, believed to be the first recorded Nordic person to have visited the area that is now the United States, Baffin Island and Labrador around 1000 CE. The Norwegian immigrants eager to find acceptance of their own promoted the exploits of the Viking explorer recorded in the Icelandic sagas.

American nativists went crazy. Artifacts purported to be of Viking origin were duly unearthed, and Viking motifs began to ornament architectural structures. The renowned Harvard chemist Eben Norton Horsford in his “Discovery of America by Northmen: Address at the Unveiling of the Statue of Leif Eriksen, Delivered in Faneuil Hall, Oct. 29, 1887” claimed for the Norsemen “the honor of having discovered America, five hundred years before Columbus.” He concluded that Leif Erikson had made landfall in Cambridge.

Leif Erikson
Leif Erikson

In 1887, a committee of assorted worthies, comprising Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, and Charles W. Eliot raised funds to erect a statue of Leif Erikson in the midst of the stately residences of Boston’s Back Bay.

Today, October 9, United States observe Leif Erikson Day, which does not associate with any event in his life. On October 9, 1825, the small Norwegian sloop “Resturasjonen,” often called the “Norwegian Mayflower,” arrived in New York with 52 emigrants from Stavanger, Norway. On this day onward began, the organized immigration from Scandinavia to the United States.

The campaign for Leiff Erikson routinely crossed over into an explicit denigration of Catholics and impugning Columbus. It seemed “necessary for the truth, as to the discovery of America, to be established immediately” an endorser of Norse precedence expressed lest accepting the claims of Columbus would steer Americans to “yield to the foulest tyrant the world has ever had, the Roman Catholic power!

After all, if America did not acknowledge its existence to an Italian Catholic, then there would be no need to accept his immigrant compatriots.

Historian Joanne Mancini says, “At a moment of increasing fear that the nation was committing race suicide, the thought of Viking ghosts roaming the streets of a city increasingly filled with Irish, Italian, and Jewish hordes must have been comforting to an Anglo-Saxon elite.

Such attacks certainly enjoyed a support for some time, but by the end of the nineteenth century, the anti-Catholic bigotry waned off. Leaders of the establishment promote a Columbus stripped of his ethnic and religious characteristics, as an icon for patriotic veneration.

Francis Julius Bellamy, Author, editor, and Baptist minister hit upon the idea of a national celebration of Columbus Day in the schools to mark the anniversary, “to assimilate these children to an American standard of life and ideas.”

For the indigenous American Indians, Columbus Day is a “celebration” of survival.

Diana King, a member of the White Earth Indian Nation in northern Minnesota and a teacher in the school system there says, “Columbus Day is a chance to teach about who we once were, what has become of us since Europeans arrived on our shores, and who we are today — a struggling but surviving people… I want teachers to teach more about Indian civilization just like they do with Egyptian or European history,”

“Our history did not begin with Christopher Columbus,” she added.

On October 14, 2013, Americans will celebrate the next Columbus Day.



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