Columbus 500 Celebration
This monument was erected by the citizens of the 140th legislative district in tribute to Christopher Columbus and those who followed him to America.
We celebrate the 500th anniversary of the 1st voyage of Christopher Columbus, whose great talent, courage, and persistence helped link for the first time the nations of Europe with the Americas, encouraging further exploration and leading to the settlement of the New World, including the United States.
We commemorate especially on this occasion, people of
Italian ancestry who followed Columbus to the New World. At first they were few in number - explorers, adventurers, missionaries, professionals, artists, & artisans. They made a significant contribution in forging a new nation unique in the annals of history.
We dedicate this splendid monument not only to Americans of Italian ancestry, but also to every American from all continents of the world, of every race, color & creed. Living & working together, their sacrifices, struggles & triumphs created one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
The First Italians in America
Among these were the explorers Vespucci, Da Verrazano, John Cabot & Tonti, Mazzei, who inspired the ideals of Jefferson; Peaker (born Paca) a signer of the Declaration of Independence; Vigo, a revolutionary war hero; Brumidi, painter of the frescos on the Capitol Rotunda; and the stone masons from the Piedmont who built the University of Virginia.
The Era of Mass Migration
The turn of the 20th century brought a huge wave of immigration to the United States. Between 1870 & 1920, over 4 million Italians arrived to escape economic hardship and to share in the freedom, hope & opportunity offered by America during its era of unparalleled industrial development.
Toil & Struggle
Skilled workers labored as stone cutters, tailors, shoemakers, & in other crafts. Others worked on the railroads, in the coal mines, quarries, and great factories. Their low paying jobs that exposed them to hazardous conditions prompted them to play a central role in the volatile history of America's labor movement.
The vast majority of Italian immigrants were Catholic. Their churches and mutual aid societies played a key role in their transition to a new society. Like other immigrant people, in spite of discrimination and exploitation, they became part of
America's rich cultural, religious, & ethnic diversity.
Many Italian immigrants and their children who followed Columbus rose to greatness & made significant contributions to America. But most led more simple lives. Like many of those whose names appear inscribed on this monument, these are the “quiet heroes.” Their values, example, & commitment to family constitute a vital contribution to our society.
[Dedicated] October 12, 1992