Leif Ericson - Legacy - United States

United States

Stories of Leif's journey to North America had a profound effect on the identity and self-perception of later Nordic Americans and Nordic immigrants to the United States. The first statue of Leif (by Anne Whitney) was erected in Boston in 1887, as many believed that Vinland could have been located at Cape Cod; not long after, another casting of Whitney's statue was erected in Milwaukee. A statue was also erected in Chicago in 1901, having been originally commissioned for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition to coincide with the arrival of a reconstructed Viking ship from Bergen, Norway. Another work of art made for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, the painting Leiv Eiriksson oppdager Amerika by Christian Krohg, was in the possession of a Leif Erikson Memorial Association in Chicago before being given back to the National Gallery of Norway in 1900.

For the centenary of the first official immigration of Norwegians to America, President Calvin Coolidge stated at the 1925 Minnesota State Fair, to a crowd of 100,000 people, that Leif had indeed been the first European to discover America. Further statues of Leif were erected at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul in 1949, near Lake Superior in Duluth in 1956, and in downtown Seattle.

The date October 9 has been used to remember Leif Ericson in the United States. In 1929, the Wisconsin Legislature passed a bill to make October 9 "Leif Erikson Day" in the state; the bill was signed by Governor Walter J. Kohler, Sr. in May of the same year. That date was not chosen to commemorate any event in the life of the explorer. Rather, it marked the first organized immigration from Norway to the United States when the ship Restauration, coming from Stavanger, arrived in New York Harbor on October 9, 1825. In 1964 the United States Congress authorized and requested the president to proclaim October 9 of each year as "Leif Erikson Day".

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