According to Webster: A·mer·i·ca, 1. The United States. 2. Also the A·mer·i·cas, The land masses and islands of North America, South America, Mexico, and Central America included in the Western Hemisphere.

Amerigo Vespucci ( 1454 – 1512 )

Amerigo Vespucci will long be remembered as the man America was named after, but who was this inconsequential explorer and how did he get his name on two continents?

Vespucci was born in 1454 to a prominent family in Florence, Italy. As a young man he read widely and collected books and maps. He began working for local bankers and was sent to Spain in 1492 to look after his employer’s business interests.

While in Spain, Amerigo Vespucci began working on ships and ultimately went on his first expedition as a navigator in 1499. This expedition reached the mouth of the Amazon River and explored the coast of South America. Vespucci was able to calculate how far west he had traveled by observing the conjunction of Mars and the Moon.

On his second voyage in 1501, Amerigo Vespucci sailed under the Portuguese flag. After leaving Lisbon, it took Vespucci 64 days to cross the Atlantic Ocean due to light winds. His ships followed the South American coast to within 400 miles of the southern tip,Tierra del Fuego.

While on this voyage, Vespucci wrote two letters to a friend in Europe. He described his travels and was the first to identify the New World of North and South America as separate from Asia. (Until he died, Columbus thought he had reached Asia.)

Amerigo Vespucci also described the culture of the indigenous people, and focused on their diet, religion, and what made these letters very popular – their sexual, marriage, and childbirth practices. The letters were published in many languages and were distributed across Europe (they were a much better seller than Columbus’ own diaries).

Amerigo Vespucci was named Pilot Major of Spain in 1508. Vespucci was proud of this accomplishments, “I was more skillful than all the shipmates of the whole world.” Vespucci’s third voyage to the New World was his last for he contracted malaria and died in Spain in 1512 at the age of 58.

The German clergyman-scholar Martin Waldseemuller liked to make up names. He even created his own last name by combining words for “wood,” “lake,” and “mill.” Waldseemuller was working on a contemporary world map, based on the Greek geography of Ptolemy, and he had read of Vespucci’s travels and knew that the New World was indeed two continents.

In honor of Vespucci’s discovery of the new forth portion of the world, Waldseemuller printed a wood block map (called “Carta Mariana”) with the name “America” spread across the southern continent of the New World. Waldseemuller printed and sold a thousand copies of the map across Europe.

Within a few years, Waldseemuller changed his mind about the name for the New World but it was too late. The name America had stuck. The power of the printed word was too powerful to take back. Gerardus Mercator’s world map of 1538 was the first to include North America and South America. Thus, continents named for an Italian navigator would live on forever. (Source

America is a melding of cultures and philosophies, and why not? Our name, “America” is a melding of the imagination of a man, a German clergyman-scholar concerned with both religion and science, Martin Waldseemuller.

According to Webster: (in context) meld, To become merged.


 Martin Waldseemüller

Martin Waldseemüller circa 1470, – March 16, 1520, was a German cartographer. Waldseemüller and Matthias Ringmann are credited with the first recorded usage of the word America, on the 1507 map Universalis Cosmographia in honor of the Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci.

Waldseemüller was born in Wolfenweiler, then his family moved to Freiburg in Breisgau (his mother came from Radolfzell) and he studied at the University of Freiburg. He died March 16, 1520, “ab intestat”, then a canon of the collegiate Church of Saint-Dié (located between Nancy, Lorraine and Strasbourg, Alsace in the heart of the Vosges blue mountain range along the Rhine river valley) 

 Universalis Cosmographia, Waldseemüller’s 1507 world map which was the first to show the Americas separate from Asia.

On April 25, 1507, as a member of the Gymnasium Vosagense at Saint Diey (German: Sankt Diedolt) in the duchy of Lorraine (todaySaint-Dié-des-Vosges, France), he produced a globular world map and a large 12-panel world wall map (Universalis Cosmographia, both bearing the first use of the name “America”. The globular and wall maps were accompanied by a book Cosmographiae Introductio, an introduction to cosmography. The book, first printed in the city of Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, includes in its second part, a translation to Latin of the Quattuor Americi Vespuccij navigationes (Four Voyages of Americo Vespucci), which is apparently a letter written by Amerigo Vespucci, although some historians consider it to have been a forgery written by its supposed recipient in Italy. In the chapter nine of the first part of the Cosmographiae Introductio, written by Mat(t)hias Ringmann (died in Sélestat in the year of Our Lord 1511 at the age of 29), it is explained why the name America was proposed for the then New World, or the Fourth Part of the World:

ab Americo Inventore …quasi Americi terramsive Americam (from Amerigo the discoverer …as if it were the land of Americus, thus America).

In 1513 Waldseemüller appears to have had second thoughts about the name, probably due to contemporary protests about Vespucci’s role in the discovery and naming of America, or just carefully waiting for the official discovery of the whole northwestern coast of what is now called North America, as separated from East Asia. In his reworking of the Ptolemy atlas, the continent is labelled simply Terra Incognita (unknown land). Despite the revision, 1,000 copies of the world maps had since been distributed, and the original suggestion took hold. While North America was still called Indies in documents for some time, it was eventually called America as well.

The wall map was lost for a long time, but a copy was found in a castle at Wolfegg in southern Germany by Joseph Fischer in 1901. It is still the only copy known to survive, and it was purchased by the Library of Congress in May 2003, after reaching an agreement in 2001. Four copies of the globular map survive in the form of “gores”: printed maps that were intended to be cut out and pasted onto a ball. Only one of these lies in the Americas today, residing at the James Ford Bell Library, University of Minnesota.

In 2007, U.S. Congressman Alcee Hastings introduced a bill (H.Res 287) to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the first use of the name “America.”

I hope that you’ve found today’s offering as interesting to read, as it was for me to compose? America not only has a long history, it has a proud history, a history that I sincerely hope you will help me preserve in November of 2012 by helping me send Barack Obama and all of his idealistic progressive liberal buddies back to where they came from…

Thank you, I’ll be back tomorrow

Crusader Rabbit..

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