Today is Leif Erikson Day. Or “Leif the Lucky” Day. In fact, the Norse explorer couldn’t have had worse luck when it came to cement his place in history.
Believed to have discovered North America in the year 1000 — almost 500 years before Christopher Columbus would receive credit for the same feat –- Erikson remained a relatively obscure character until 1837 when Danish literary historian Carl Christian Rafn published the first scholarly analysis of the Pre-Columbian Norse exploration.
Nevertheless, many years passed until Leif the Lucky received the consideration he deserved. It wasn’t until in 1964 that President Lyndon B. Johnson designated October 9 an annual American observance in honor of the explorer.
“The intrepid exploits of the Vikings of Erikson’s time strike a responsive chord in the hearts of all the American people, who as a nation are today embarked upon an adventurous exploration of the unfathomed realms of space,” Johnson said.
Leif Erikson (about 970 – about 1020) was the son of Erik the Red, the first European to land and settle on Greenland after he was exiled from Iceland. Leif launched an even more ambitious expedition, which was recorded in several different sagas.