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Interesting Facts for Kids about Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus

Born in 1451 in Genoa, Italy, Christopher Columbus was the oldest of five children. When he was growing up, he learned to weave so he could help his father who was a weaver. But what he really wanted to do was to sail. So he went to become a sailor at the age of 10. He is most famous today for being the man who 'discovered' the Americas.

He sailed for a Genovese trading family for for many years, travelling as far as Iceland. He arrived in Lisbon in Portugal in 1479 and got married to Dona Felipa Perestrello, the daughter of an experienced sea captain. Her high social ranking helped him make better connections and he sailed to Africa's Gold Coast in the name of King John II of Portugal in 1481.

In 1484, Columbus offered his plan to discover a new trade route to the king of Portugal, but he was turned down because the king thought his plan was too vague. What Columbus wanted to find an easier way to get to China to bring back trade goods like silk, spices and other items. The current trade routes of the time went over land, and was full of danger from bandits. If he could find an easier route by going around the back of the world, he would become rich and famous.

The king briefly reconsidered, but when a sea captain called Bartholomew Diaz discovered an eastern route by sea to India, the king was no longer interested in trying to go across the Atlawestern route.

Next he tried to convince King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain to finance his voyage. It took eight years before they finally agreed! By that time, Columbus also demanded that he be knighted and declared Admiral of the Ocean Sea. He wanted to be the governor and viceroy of all the lands he would discover in his journey. He also demanded ten percent of all valuables he discovered in his travels. The King and Queen agreed, and so Columbus prepared to set sail.

Columbus' first voyage across the Atlantic consisted of only three ships: the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. He made sure there was enough food aboard to last a year, and in four short months, he set sail with a crew of about 90 sailors, leaving on August 3, 1492. He had to stop in the Canary Islands for a month to repair a problem with some of the ships before again setting out westward in September 3, 1492. 33 days later at 2 am on October 12, 1492, one of the sailors on board spotted land in the distance.

He built a fort in the land now called Haiti and returned to Spain, where he was welcomed as a hero. He made three more voyages to the New World, taking his son, Ferdinand on his fourth trip.

Contrary to popular belief, Columbus never actually discovered North America, only the outlying islands. He did later discover South America, but when he died in 1506, he still had not realized that he had discovered a whole new continent. 

This is an original news article © The Kids Window

One in a series of articles about History.

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    Columbus had discovered one of the islands in the Bahamas known today as Watling Island. He named it San Salvador, claiming sovereignty in the name of Spain. He mistakenly thought he was in the west of India, so he called all the natives "Indians" - this is why those islands are still called the West Indies today. When he reached Cuba, he thought he had found China!