On October 12th, 1492, Rodrigo de Escobedo of Segovia was the first notary in North America. He sailed on the flagship Santa Maria, as Secretary of the Fleet, landing with Christopher Columbus, and recording the event in legal documents. He witnessed documents as a royal notary for King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile.
Landing of Columbus
The painting, “Landing of Columbus” on the Islands of Guanahani, West Indies, by John Vanderlyn, completed in 1846, hangs in the rotunda of the US Capitol. It shows the notary Escobedo standing directly behind the right shoulder of Columbus, which indicates his importance. Behind the notary is a friar, bearing a crucifix.
Washington Irving described the landing of Columbus in his 1828 book. “On landing, Columbus threw himself on his knees, kissed the earth, and returned thanks to God with tears of joy. His example was followed by the rest, whose hearts indeed overflowed with the same feelings of gratitude.”
“Columbus then rising drew his sword, displayed the royal standard, and assembling around him the two captains, with Rodrigo de Escobedo, notary of the armament, Rodrigo Sanchez of Segovia, the royal inspector (veedor), and the rest who had landed, he took solemn possession in the name of the Castilian sovereigns, giving the island the name of San Salvador.”
“Having complied with the requisite forms and ceremonies, he called upon all present to take the oath of obedience to him, as admiral and viceroy, representing the persons of the sovereigns.”
Columbian Exposition Stamps
The World’s Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893, was the first critically and economically successful U.S. world’s fair. The exposition was to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Columbus landing in the New World.
The US Postal Service issued a special series of 13 postage stamps to honor this event. Each stamp in the series shows a different scene commemorating events related to the Columbus landing in America. The two cent stamp is shown. Stamps issued: 1893
The US Postal Service has this description of a Columbus stamp. “As the legal officer or notary aboard the Santa Maria, Rodrigo de Escobedo (Escobar) witnessed discoveries and recorded all official transactions in the name of Spain.”
Columbus Arrival and Departure
The Niña (56 ft) and Pinta (56 ft), both 3-masted caravels, and the Santa María, a 3-masted 62 ft cargo ship known as a nao, sailed on September 6, 1492, from the Old World to the New World. With a total crew of 120 men, they arrived on the shores of Guanahani Island (Bahamas) on October 12. Escobedo duly witnessed the great event at the site that was named Fernandez Bay.
After arrival, the Santa Maria ran aground on a reef and sank on Christmas. The wood from the ship was used to build a fortress at La Navidad in Hispaniola (Haiti). Columbus sailed back to Spain in January 1493 to report the discovery of the New World. Escobedo was among the 39 crew members that stayed behind at La Navidad, with hopes of finding gold.
Those who were left behind perished, most of them murdered by the natives. La Navidad and the surrounding Indian village were burned. Columbus found the ruins when he returned in November 1493.
Notary Feared by Natives
In one account of a later exploration trip by Columbus, a notary is asked to record answers to questions asked of the natives. The notary took out his quill pen, ink pot, and parchment to prepare to write. The natives were puzzled by this procedure and afraid that it may be some sort of evil ceremony. They ran away. They later re-appeared bringing with them their own form of magic to counter any evil spell brought by the new explorers.
Leif Erikson arrives before Columbus
Around 1000, five hundred years before Columbus, Leif Erikson (Ericson) of Norway may have established a colony in the land he called Vinland, on the northern tip of Newfoundland. There is no mention of a notary that accompanied the Vikings to North America. October 9th is celebrated as Leif Erikson Day.
The name America was chosen in honor of Amerigo Vespucci (Americus Vespucius), who made several voyages to the New World, after Columbus. He was the son of a wealthy notary from Florence, Italy.
Vasco da Gama
Columbus sailed west from Europe and mistakenly thought he had reached India and called the natives Indians. Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama sailed south and east from Portugal around the southern tip of Africa, arriving in Calicut (Calcutta) India in 1498. The Portuguese had begun exploring the oceans long before Spain and kept their valuable sea knowledge secret from other countries. Vasco da Gama opened the highly valuable spice trade to Portugal.
Niña and Pinta Replicas
Note: The Columbus Foundation owns replicas of the Niña and Pinta which serve as floating museums that tour port cities in the eastern US. See port schedule for the Niña and Pinta.
Photo credits: Landing of Columbus-public domain, Santa Maria ship-By Yanajin33 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Notary with Christopher Columbus 1492
Notary with Christopher Columbus 1492