Leif Erikson Day

Leif Erikson Day
U.S. stamp issued on Leif Erikson Day, 1968
Observed by United States
Type Cultural
Significance Celebrating Leif Erikson as the first European to discover North America
Date October 9
Next time October 9, 2018 (2018-10-09)
Frequency annual
Related to Leif Erikson

Leif Erikson Day is an annual American observance which occurs on October 9.[1] It honors Leif Erikson (Old Norse: Leifr Eiríksson, Icelandic: Leifur Eiríksson, Norwegian: Leiv Eiriksson), the Norse explorer who led the first Europeans thought to have set foot in continental North America[2][3][4] (Greenland excluded).


The book America Not Discovered by Columbus by Rasmus B. Anderson was published in 1874, helping popularize the idea that Vikings were the first Europeans in the New World, an idea that was all but verified in 1960.[5] During his appearance at the Norse-American Centennial in 1925, President Calvin Coolidge gave recognition to Leif Erikson as the discoverer of America due to research by Norwegian-American scholars such as Knut Gjerset and Ludvig Hektoen.[6] In 1929, Wisconsin became the first U.S. state to officially adopt Leif Erikson Day as a state holiday,[7][8] thanks in large part to efforts by Rasmus Anderson.[9] In 1931, Minnesota did also.[10] By 1956, Leif Erikson Day had been made an official observance in seven states (Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Illinois, Colorado, Washington, and California) and one Canadian province (Saskatchewan).[11] In 2012, the day was also made official in Las Vegas, Nevada.[12] In 1963, the U.S. Representative from Duluth, John Blatnik, introduced a bill to observe Leif Erikson Day nationwide. The following year Congress adopted this unanimously. In 1964, the United States Congress authorized and requested the President to create the observance through an annual proclamation. Lyndon B. Johnson did so, as has each President since. Presidents have used the proclamation to praise the contributions of Americans of Nordic descent generally and the spirit of discovery. In addition to the federal observance, some states officially commemorate Leif Erikson Day, particularly in the Upper Midwest, where large numbers of people from the Nordic countries settled.


October 9 is not associated with any particular event in Leif Erikson's life. The date was chosen because the ship Restauration coming from Stavanger, Norway, arrived in New York Harbor on October 9, 1825, at the start of the first organized immigration from Norway to the United States.[13][14]


  1. Office of the Press Secretary (October 8, 2015). "Presidential Proclamation – Leif Erikson Day, 2015". The White House.
  2. "Leiv Erikson". Go Norway. 2007.
  3. "History – Leif Erikson (11th century)". BBC. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  4. "Why Do We Celebrate Columbus Day and Not Leif Erikson Day?". National Geographic. October 11, 2015. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  5. "L'Anse Aux Meadows & the Viking Discovery of North America". JSTOR Daily. 2015-07-23. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
  6. Gjerset, Knut; Hektoen, Ludvig. 'Becoming American, Becoming Suburban: Norwegians in the 1920s. 33. Norwegian-American Historical Association. p. 3.
  7. "Kohler Signs Two Bills". Manitowoc Herald-Times. May 15, 1929. p. 13. Retrieved October 9, 2016 via Newspapers.com.
  8. "Wisconsin Schools Will Observe Leif Erikson Day Next Wednesday". The Capital Times. October 6, 1929. p. 9. Retrieved October 9, 2016 via Newspapers.com.
  9. "Minnesota Ready to Adopt Leif Erikson Day, Says Hoen". The Capital Times. December 28, 1930. p. 18. Retrieved October 9, 2016 via Newspapers.com.
  10. Hansen, Carl G.O. "Leif Erikson Comes to the Front". My Minneapolis. Nasjonalbiblioteket (The National Library of Norway). The Norwegian National League in Minneapolis took the initiative in getting the Minnesota legislature to adopt a law of the same import and contents as the Wisconsin law making October 9 Leif Erikson Day. Such a bill was signed by Governor Floyd B. Olson, April 7, 1931
  11. Hansen, Carl Gustav Otto (1956). "Leif Erikson Comes to the Front". My Minneapolis. Minneapolis.
  12. Radke, Jace (October 2, 2012). "City Council To Recognize Leif Erikson Day" (Press release). City of Las Vegas. Archived from the original on October 19, 2013. Retrieved October 9, 2013.
  13. "Leif Erikson Day in United States". TimeandDate.com.
  14. "Leif Erikson in Humboldt Park". Norwegian National League. Archived from the original on October 19, 2009.

Further reading

  • Anderson, Rasmus Bjorn (1874). America Not Discovered by Columbus: an historical sketch of the discovery of America by the Norsemen in the Tenth Century. Chicago: S.C. Griggs. 
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