Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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April 20th
How America Got Its Name
America is named after the Italian navigator Amerigo Vespucci, one of the early explorers of the New World. Between 1497 and 1504 Vespucci made as many as four voyages across the Atlantic. He took part in expeditions that explored the coast of South America between Venezuela and southern Brazil.

Christopher Columbus had already sailed across the Atlantic in 1492, but he believed that he had made landfall in Asia. Vespucci insisted in a report entitled Mundus Novus (New World) that a giant, uncharted land mass lay between Europe and Asia.

In April 1507, a German mapmaker named Martin Waldseemüller published a book called Cosmographiae Introductio in which he coined the term America to honor Vespucci. He mistakenly believed that Vespucci had been the first to discover the New World. “I do not see why anyone should by right object to name it America . . . after its discoverer, Americus, a man of sagacious mind, since both Europe and Asia took their names from women,” Waldseemüller wrote.

Waldseemüller also made maps bearing the name America, and soon other Europeans began using the term. At first the name applied only to South America, which Vespucci had explored, but later mapmakers used America for all of the New World.

American History Parade
1841
Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” one of the first detective stories, is published.

1861
Robert E. Lee resigns his command in the U.S. Army.

1912
Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, opens.

1940
RCA demonstrates the first U.S. electron microscope, capable of magnifying 100,000 times.

1999
At Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, two students shoot and kill twelve classmates and a teacher before committing suicide.

2010
A blowout at BP’s Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico kills eleven workers and causes a massive oil spill.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
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