The 1992 Quincentenary


The Christopher Columbus Quincentenary Jubilee Commission was established on August 7, 1984 (98 Stat.1257) and was formed on September 12, 1985. The Commission consisted of 30 members whose mission was to plan, encourage, coordinate and conduct the commemoration of the voyages of Christopher Columbus and to set forth general provisions and policies governing the process of recognition and support of the Quincentenary projects. In accordance with the terms of the act that established it, the Commission was terminated on December 31, 1993 after submitting a comprehensive report to Congress that incorporated the Commission's recommendations for the commemoration.


This article appeared in the NCCA 2002 program booklet:


In August 1984, Congress established the Christopher Columbus Quincentenary Jubilee Commission, which was sworn in on September 12, 1985. Their report to Congress two years later (September 12, 1987) outlined an ambitious program, not all of which was realized. Five themes were proposed:


I. Columbus: the Man and the Visionary. Seek better knowledge about him as an individual and better understanding of the importance of his voyage and the diverse environments in which he lived.


II. Our Old World Heritage. Celebrate unity in diversity, and recognize the Hispanic colonial history of large parts of our country.


III. Our New World Heritage. Reflect on what was lost as well as found. The resilience, diversity, and contribution of Native Americans to American culture, and their various food crops that became staples in other parts of the world, all merit acknowledgment.


IV. American Alternatives: The New World's Contribution to the Old. Colonies here were havens for old ideas of liberty, religious dissent, experimentation, relion against slavery, and economic individualism, and the birth of the nation made the utopian idea of democratic constitutional government real. Our popular culture, a product of ethnic diversity and democratic accessibility, has spread all over the world.


V. The future: New Worlds Then and Now. Reflect on Columbus' vision--his ability to build on existing knowledge, to grow, learn, and seek new frontiers--and what it means for the next 500 years. Particularly appropriate would be international cooperation on space exploration.


National Initiatives


Several national initiatives were proposed:


o Competitive scholarships in collaboration with Spain, Italy, Portugal, and our hemispheric neighbors promoting study of geography, history, and foreign languages.


o In collaboration with the Library of Congress and the National Archives, acquisition of copies of key historical Hispanic documents in libraries and archives of Spain, Portugal, Italy and Latin America.


o A national Museum of the Americas (preferably on the Washington Mall) with exhibitions, research, and training on Native American life through the millennia of human life in this hemisphere.


Projects. The plan encouraged books and pamphlets on the history of the Americas; films and television productions; bibliographical projects; translations of original documents and scholarly works, and also literary works from other nations of the Americas; conferences and convocations; preservation, travel, and tourism; and support of appropriate projects in libraries, archives, museums. and in the arts.


Commemorative Events. Preliminary events would include. sports, musical performances and art exhibits, and the 100th anniversary of the oldest Columbus Day parade in the U.S., in 1990 in Baltimore. Other events: a mobile exhibit on the quincentenary themes, a 500-year time capsule; and a ceremonial closing of the Columbus Doors of the National Capitol on October 12, 1991 and opening on the 500th anniversary day, October 12, 1992, to symbolize the communications Columbus opened between the Old and New Worlds. Several focal events were proposed for 1992 :


o The Chicago-Seville World's Fair, with a specialized exposition in Genoa on maritime exploration.


o Ameriflora '92, International Floral and Garden Exposition, Columbus, Ohio.


o Visits to American seaports by replicas of the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria.


o A repeat of the first international naval review held in American waters in 1893, which escorted replicas of Columbus's ships into New York harbor. There would be a parade of sail from Genoa and Lisbon to Cadiz, San Juan in Puerto Rico and the East coast of the U.S. with a parade of tall ships in the presence of the President and other heads of state on July 4, 1992. A similar event on the West Coast would feature ships from Pacific nations.


o: On Columbus Day, 1992 local celebrations, such as those in Washington, New York, Chicago, Columbus, and other cities should expand their scope to address the broader significance of the anniversary.



Several major museum exhibits did take place here that more or less reflected the above themes: "Circa 1492" at the National Gallery of Art (October 12, 1991-January 12, 1992), "Seeds of Change" at the National Museum of Natural History (October 27, 1991-April 1, 1992), and "1492: An Ongoing Voyage" at the Library of Congress. The replicas of the three ships did put into Baltimore and Annapolis in May and June, on their way up the coast. The National Park Service had a three-day program celebrating diversity at Columbus Plaza culminating in the traditional ceremonies at the Columbus Memorial on the Monday federal holiday which happily in 1992 fell on October 12.


The Civic Ceremony At the Columbus Memorial


This was the third time it was sponsored under the recently-created Washington Columbus Celebration Association (since renamed the National Columbus Celebration Association). Whereas the Knights of Columbus had opened their world-wide celebration of the Quincentenary here in conjunction with the 1991 celebration, in 1992 their focus for celebration was at their August national convention in New York, where one of the guests was Cristobal Colón, Duke of Veragua, 20th lineal descendent of the original Christopher Columbus.


Here at the Columbus Memorial the ceremonies began at 1:45 p.m., featuring addresses by U. S. Attorney Joseph E. DiGenova ("The Courage of Christopher Columbus," subsequently reproduced in excerpted format in the 1994 program book) and historian Christopher Kauffman ("Culture and Religion: A Quincentennial Reflection"). Hon. Joseph A. DePaul was Master of Ceremonies. There was a brief presentation by Louis Koerber, President of the National Flag Foundation, observing the 100th anniversary of the Pledge of Allegiance, originally composed in connection with the 1892 Columbus Quadricentennial and incorporated by Congress into the Flag Code of the U.S. in the Pledge's fiftieth anniversary Year, 1942. (The pledge was modified in 1954 to include the words "under God").


An entertaining visual break in the program was Renaissance dancing by the Nachtanz dance group, which had participated in several celebrations in earlier years. Music was provided both as a prelude at 11:30 a.m. and during the 1:45 program by the Filarmonica Sestrese Genoa Concert, on a Columbus Quincentennial tour from Italy October 9-21, which also included concerts at the White House, Palm Coast, Disneyland, and South Florida. Founded in 1845, the concert band earned accolades from Garibaldi, Mazzini and Verdi, and won awards in Switzerland, Spain, and Czechoslovakia. Director was Gianluca Silvano, with Colonel Charles Gabriele serving as guest conductor.


A souvenir program booklet was first published in 1992. With an attractive full-color cover featuring Columbus's three ships at sea, it had 28 pages with informative background articles and courtesy advertising that provided revenue to help pay the costs of the program. Such a booklet has been published each year since, more than doubling in size.


The DAR, SAR, and CAR Program in the Columbus Club


The outdoor civic ceremony was preceded by a 10 a.m. program in the Columbus Club of Union Station, sponsored by the local chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Sons of the American Revolution, and Children of the American Revolution.


It included a color guard presentation by the DC Metropolitan Police; the Pledge of Allegiance and the American Creed; a greeting by Carlo Trezza, First Counselor of the Embassy of Italy; commemorative tributes by representatives of the three sponsoring societies; stamp cancellation and cachet directed by the U.S. Postal Service; greetings from the Washington Columbus Celebration Association; skits by the CAR, directed by Dr. Frank Spindler; and several talks (Dr. David Curfman on 1492 revisited; Arne B. Molander on what Columbus really looked like; and John Verano on the biological impact of Columbus's voyages).


The Sunday Religious Ceremony and the Lido Club Statue Donation


Holy Rosary Church, the non-territorial Italian parish near Union Station, traditionally has been site of the annual religious celebration of Columbus Day the Sunday preceding the Monday civic ceremony. The Mass in 1992 was followed by an historic event: the presentation to the parish by the Lido Civic Club of a specially-commissioned statue of Columbus (left), which stands in the courtyard between the church and the rectory. Each year since, it has been the site of a brief ceremony following the Mass, as part of the annual religious observance sponsored by the Lido Club and the District of Columbia Knights of Columbus


The Lido Civic Club has existed since 1929, and has an economically and socially diverse membership bound by Italian-American heritage and culture. Lido Club members have long been involved in Columbus Day celebrations. Records document their participation in the early 1930s. In its wider service to the community, the Lido Club has helped many to gain a good education and sound careers through scholarships, and has given assistance to the homeless, elderly, orphans. disaster victims, and others in need.


- by Edward M. Sullivan


Christopher Columbus Quincentenary Coin Set


In 1992 the US Mint issued the Christopher Columbus Quincentenary Silver Dollar and the Quincentenary Half-Dollar, minted in a set to commemorate the 500th Anniversary since Christopher Columbus first set foot in the ‘New World.’   The coins were made at the US Mint in Denver, Colorado, and can still be found for sale.



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