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Columbus Day, History and Controversy


Ridgewood Columbus Day Closing – Monday, October 14, 2019

Rodgewood NJ, Monday, October 14th is Columbus Day and all Village offices will be closed.  Village Sanitation and Recycling services will not take place that day and the Recycling Center will be closed.

Editors Note: Christopher Columbus was a very controversial figure in his day ,perhaps even more so than now. Many students of history suggest that Columbus would have thrived in today’s culture of “no press is bad press ”  and would have basked in all the attention

Columbus Day

Columbus Day is a U.S. holiday that commemorates the landing of Christopher Columbus in the New World on October 12, 1492. It was unofficially celebrated in a number of cities and states as early as the 18th century but did not become a federal holiday until the 1937. For many, the holiday is a way of both honoring Columbus’ achievements and celebrating Italian-American heritage. Throughout its history, Columbus Day and the man who inspired it have generated controversy, and many alternatives to the holiday have appeared in recent years.

Origins of Columbus Day
A U.S. national holiday since 1937, Columbus Day commemorates the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World on October 12, 1492. The Italian-born explorer had set sail two months earlier, backed by the Spanish monarchs King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. He intended to chart a western sea route to China, India and the fabled gold and spice islands of Asia; instead, he landed in the Bahamas, becoming the first European to explore the Americas since the Vikings set up colonies in Greenland and Newfoundland during the 10th century.

Later that month, Columbus sighted Cuba and believed it was mainland China; in December the expedition found Hispaniola, which he though might be Japan. There, he established Spain’s first colony in the Americas with 39 of his men. In March 1493, the explorer returned to Spain in triumph, bearing gold, spices and “Indian” captives. He crossed the Atlantic several more times before his death in 1506; by his third journey, he realized that he hadn’t reached Asia but instead had stumbled upon a continent previously unknown to Europeans.

Columbus Day in the United States
The first Columbus Day celebration took place in 1792, when New York’s Columbian Order–better known as Tammany Hall–held an event to commemorate the historic landing’s 300th anniversary. Taking pride in Columbus’ birthplace and faith, Italian and Catholic communities in various parts of the country began organizing annual religious ceremonies and parades in his honor. In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison issued a proclamation encouraging Americans to mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage with patriotic festivities, writing, “On that day let the people, so far as possible, cease from toil and devote themselves to such exercises as may best express honor to the discoverer and their appreciation of the great achievements of the four completed centuries of American life.”

In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed Columbus Day a national holiday, largely as a result of intense lobbying by the Knights of Columbus, an influential Catholic fraternal benefits organization. Originally observed every October 12, it was fixed to the second Monday in October in 1971.

Columbus Day Alternatives
Opposition to Columbus Day dates back to the 19th century, when anti-immigrant groups in the United States rejected the holiday because of its association with Catholicism. In recent decades, Native Americans and other groups have protested the celebration of an event that indirectly resulted in the colonization of the Americas and the death of millions: European settlers brought a host of infectious diseases, including smallpox and influenza, that decimated indigenous populations; warfare between Native Americans and the colonists claimed many lives as well. The image of Christopher Columbus as an intrepid hero has also been called into question. Upon arriving in the Bahamas, the explorer and his men forced the native peoples they found there into slavery; later, while serving as the governor of Hispaniola, he allegedly imposed barbaric forms of punishment, including torture.

In many Latin American nations, the anniversary of Columbus’ landing has traditionally been observed as the Dìa de la Raza (“Day of the Race”), a celebration of Hispanic culture’s diverse roots. In 2002, Venezuela renamed the holiday Dìa de la Resistencia Indìgena (“Day of Indigenous Resistance”) to recognize native peoples and their experience. Several U.S. cities and states have replaced Columbus Day with alternative days of remembrance; examples include Berkeley’s Indigenous Peoples Day, South Dakota’s Native American Day and Hawaii’s Discoverer’s Day, which commemorates the arrival of Polynesian settlers.

Columbus Day Traditions
In many parts of the United States, Columbus Day has evolved into a celebration of Italian-American heritage. Local groups host parades and street fairs featuring colorful costumes, music and Italian food. In cities and towns that use the day to honor indigenous peoples, activities include pow-wows, traditional dance and lessons about Native American culture.

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Christopher Columbus as controversial then , as he is today

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, Christopher Columbus  the famed Italian explorer who “discovered” the “New World” of the Americas on an expedition sponsored by King Ferdinand of Spain in 1492. Columbus was an explorer and adventurer , who leaves us with a mixed legacy. His life is that of a consummate promoter  and a figure at the center of the unforeseen and wholly “unintended consequence” of discovery.

Columbus is of course credited for opening up the Americas to European colonization as well as often blamed for the destruction of the native peoples of the islands he explored. Ultimately, he failed to find that what he set out for which was a new route to Asia and the riches it promised.  He was as controversial then , as he is today.

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New Jersey was a Gateway to Freedom: Its role in the Underground Railroad

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, Curious about the New Jersey’s role in the abolitionist movement and how the trail of safe houses and routes ferrying slaves from the southern states to freedom in the north worked? Alvin Corbett will provide an overview of this extensive network that eventually became known as the “Underground Railroad.”

Alvin Q. Corbett, who was born and raised in Wilson, North Carolina, is a historian, educator and lecturer. Corbett holds a bachelor’s degree from North Carolina A&T State University and a master’s from Stevens Institute of Technology. He served as Vice President of Board of Directors for the Underground Railroad Museum of Burlington County, NJ (2014-2017); has been invited to be a visiting scholar at New Jersey’s Rutgers University; is an active member of the Salem and Camden County, NJ Historical Societies; and is a friend of the Peter Mott Underground Railroad Museum of Lawnside, NJ. Corbett also served as Assistant Curator for the Mattye Reed African-American Heritage Museum on the campus of North Carolina Agricultural & Technical (A&T) State University in Greensboro, NC. In 1984, Corbett became one of the first museum digital archivist in the country.

Free and open to the public—all are welcome!

Genealogical Society of Bergen County,

General Meeting
Monday, 23 September 2019, 7pm
Ridgewood Public Library Auditorium

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Labor Day stems from deadly labor strike, but few Americans know the history

President Grover Cleveland

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

A labor movement in Chicago in 1894 left 30 Pullman workers dead, and later spurred Congress and President Grover Cleveland to pass a bill creating Labor Day. But the history of this holiday is rarely taught in schools, and there are few full-time labor journalists to write about working class communities.

Sunday, August 31, 2014, 7:31 PM

WASHINGTON — Monday is the day to celebrate the American worker and his sacrifices and economic and social achievements.

You do know that, right?

If you don’t, you’re not alone.

Few recall the bloodstained origins of this holiday as we fire up the grill, throw on the burgers and dogs and turn on the U.S. Open tennis or maybe the Yanks, Mets or another ballgame.

And, in a sign of the times, the Sunday morning network news shows didn’t even offer their usual, token pre-Labor Day weekend spot for the head of the nation’s labor movement.

“No,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka when I asked him. “No invitations this year.”

I told the former mine worker-turned-lawyer that there seems to be a precious lack of understanding of the holiday’s origins.

In fact, it stems from an awful confrontation in Chicago in 1894 that saw federal marshals and the Army kill 30 striking Pullman railroad strikers.

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New Bridge Baseball History

by Kevin Wright, Bergen County Historical Society

New bridge landing NJ, Lithographs, based largely upon eyewitness observations and sketches, record the growing popularity of baseball among soldiers, who played games in camp during leisurely interludes of the American Civil War. Baseball grew into a truly national pastime, as both an athletic competition and spectator sport, when returning veterans established the now standardized game in hometowns from coast to coast.

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Bergen County Real-Estate Then and Now

Bergen County Historical Society

New Bridge landing NJ, On May 5th, 1778 through the recommendation of #GeorgeWashington Baron #VonSteuben would attain the commission of Inspector General for the Continental Army. Due to his service during the War, he received a stately mansion on the banks of the Hackensack. When the Baron would sell this land and go to NY state, we have a fantastic description of what New Bridge must have looked like from the historian Kevin Wright:

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The Village Continues to Disregard it’s American History and Fiduciary Obligations Toward Schedler Property

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, There has been an ongoing debate about the Schedler property in Ridgewood. Artifacts dating back to the Revolutionary war were discovered on this property. Here is a British Lieutenant’s sword, dated 1747, found at Schedler. Also, a letter written by the same man describing his approach to battle on this exact site. Our Village Stewards are moving towards converting this historical, untouched, wooded area into another ball field. The archaeological investigation that was suppose to happen never did. Instead, the Village spent 99k to remove valuable trees and soil, possibly destroying American History. Further destruction was permitted when developers got approval to cover and bury the parcel with excavated soil. Now the Village has ordered more clearing and tree removal. What a blatant disregard for American History and fiduciary obligations.

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The New Jersey State Trooper that Saved D-Day

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Sidney Spiegel was with General Dwight D. Eisenhower in England in the early spring of 1944. Eisenhower was at a D-Day planning meeting and awaiting the arrival of top-secret film of the French Coast.

The courier who was to deliver the film had a hole in his satchel. When he arrived at the meeting, they discovered that he had lost it somewhere along the way.

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Bergen County Historical Society Wreath laying at the Hackensack Church on the Green

Historian Kevin Wright posted this in 2005

Hackensack NJ, May 27, 2019: In commemoration of the 239th anniversary of the death of General Enoch Poor, of New Hampshire, during the Steenrapie Encampment, the Bergen County Historical Society is laying a floral wreath upon his grave in the Hackensack Church on the Green.

James Thacher, a Surgeon in the Continental army, described General Poor’s death and funeral with the following entry in his Military Journal:

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War once again comes to #BergenCounty! March 23, 1780!

Hackensack NJ, from the Bergen County Historical Society : 

Hackensack NJ, The Revolutionary history of Bergen County and New Bridge does not end at the Retreat in 1776. In fact at least 11 engagements occur at the New Bridge and was a constant scene of activity during the war.

Continue reading War once again comes to #BergenCounty! March 23, 1780!