For Columbus Day, I wanted to create a drawing about Christopher Columbus, who in recent years has become a wee bit controversial to be celebrating with his own special day. One theme of this Bizarre Facts About Famous Men series is to poke a bit of fun at the venerated patriarchy of historical figures from the past, the details of whose accomplishments are foisted upon American grade-school students from a tender young age.
Something I strive to do with this drawing series is to dig up facts that are not commonly heard, and are also a tad silly. So, “Columbus sanctioned the raping, pillaging, and enslavement of the indigenous people he ‘discovered'” just wouldn’t do, nor would the apocryphal tale of him stiffing a crew member of a reward for being the first to sight land.
The pear-shaped earth theory was something that Columbus talked about late in his life after his seafaring days had passed, and it’s unclear whether he really believed it, but it is something he affirmed in private correspondence.
The filthy conditions of louse-ridden, barefoot sailors wearing a single set of clothes for months among an infestation of flea-bitten rats is something that I had never heard before but is apparently true. I tried to get the details of their clothing correct as well, with knee-length breeches and smocks.