Skip to main content

Pride Followeth A Landfall

March 2023
2min read

But if devout dissent is what can be expected from associations given to the vindication of famous men who have long been considered cads, it is nothing to the fuss aroused when a veritable folk hero like Christopher Columbus is thought to have suddenly had his reputation dimmed. In our October issue we were proud to share with the Yale University Press the announcement of the finding of the now widely known Vinland Map of 1440, which furnishes indisputable evidence that the Norse discovery of America at the turn of the tenth and eleventh centuries was not (despite long belief to the contrary) unknown to pre-Columbian scholars. Public reaction to the announcement was quick and surprising. Every newspaper carried the story, many to the accompaniment of amusing cartoons (see opposite); but what astonished us was the roar of outrage that went up from partisans of Columbus all over the country, and particularly from many Italian-Americans. Now, this fascinating map, though it indirectly adds substance to the reputation of Leif Ericsson, certainly takes little from that of Columbus, whose rediscovery of America was an independent triumph and the beginning of the permanent development of the New World.

Yet all over the country, Italian-Americans hit the ceiling, shedding a tutti-frutti of charges against map, Yale, and the Norsemen themselves. On a wall in the Italian section of Boston someone scrawled, “Leif Ericsson is a fink.” Across the river in Cambridge a city councillor named Alfred E. Vellucci cried that Yale was making an attempt “to disgrace the Italian race of America,” and demanded that Harvard suspend all athletic contests with Yale until that institution apologized.

Down in New York, girding itself for the vast annual Columbus Day parade, the Vinland Map put a Yale man on the spot. Mayor (but then Candidate) John V. Lindsay, facing an Italian audience, shrugged off Alma Mater and declared, “Saying that Columbus did not discover America is as silly as saying that DiMaggio doesn’t know anything about baseball, or that Toscanini and Caruso were not great musicians.” Lindsay’s host at the rally, John Napoleon La Corte, general director of the Italian Historical Society of America, could not contain himself. He would not send his son to Yale, he announced. “Many good American families will not send their children to Yale,” he added. Having thus dashed the university’s hopes, Mr. La Corte said that he would enlist the help of “the Vatican, world historians, and the National Geographic Society” in proving that its new map meant nothing. “We’re going to put Yale University against the wall,” he said.

In Chicago, where putting people against the wall is more or less traditional, the chairman of the local Columbus Day parade, a lawyer named Victor Arrigo, called the map “a Communist plot.” Referring no doubt to The Tartar Relation , one of the manuscripts accompanying the map, he added that “You can almost see the Russian influence in the title.” How could Mr. Arrigo know that the Relation was written some six centuries before the birth of Karl Marx? How could Mr. La Corte know that the National Geographic Society sponsored the dig that recently found the archaeological evidence of Norse settlement in Newfoundland?

Well, one group concerned with the discovery of America remained magnificently calm, their claim to priority completely beyond contest. “You will forgive me for saying,” observed Mr. Richard Halfmoon, a chief of the Nez Perce Indians, “that this controversy does not interest me or my people.”

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.


Stories published from "February 1966"

Authored by: George McMillan

So thought many a weary Marine after the bloody, interminable battle for Guadalcanal. It was only a dot in the ocean, but upon its possession turned the entire course of the Pacific war

Authored by: David G. Lowe

Three long-lost paintings of Washington in action (above, at Germantown) were part of G.W.P. Custis’ lifelong effort to glorify the foster father he adored

Authored by: David McCullough

One thing was clear through the rain and the mist: America’s enthusiasm for Miss Liberty matched her colossal dimensions

Authored by: The Editors

In her later years, Dolley was urbane and gracious, but ruined financially by her spendthrift son.

Authored by: Henry Steele Commager

By no means, said W. H. Prescott. Absolutely, said Lord Acton. The question remains hard—and intriguing

Authored by: Roger M. Williams

A Grave Question for Georgians…

Authored by: Wendy Buehr


Authored by: John Dos Passos

No one who met him ever forgot him. His charm captivated beautiful women, his eloquence moved the United States Senate to tears, his political skills carried him to the very threshold of the White House. Yet while still Vice President he was indicted for murder, and was already dreaming the dreams of empire that would bring him to trial for treason. After a century and a half, historians still cannot decide whether he was a traitor, a con man, or a mere adventurer. Now, a distinguished writer enters the controversy with an account of

Authored by: Gerald Carson

In Jackson’s day you were damned if you wore a beard; by Lincoln’s, damned if you didn’t. Then beards were suddenly ‘out “—for good, it seemed. But were they?

Authored by: Robert E. Cunningham

When the Oklahoma District was opened, boomers staked their claims. Sooners staked theirs sooner. Thousands of both were on hand, all with a single aim:

Featured Articles

Rarely has the full story been told about how a famed botanist, a pioneering female journalist, and First Lady Helen Taft battled reluctant bureaucrats to bring Japanese cherry trees to Washington. 

The world’s most prominent actress risked her career by standing up to one of Hollywood’s mega-studios, proving that behind the beauty was also a very savvy businesswoman. 

Often thought to have been a weak president, Carter was strong-willed in doing what he thought was right, regardless of expediency or the political fallout.

Why have thousands of U.S. banks failed over the years? The answers are in our history and politics.

In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln embodied leading in a time of polarization, political disagreement, and differing understandings of reality.