Italian Heritage


1869 – San Francisco’s First Columbus Day Celebration is held, marking the first time in San francisco and America that Italian-Americans gathered and held a parade to honor the accomplishments of Italians, as well as the first Italian-American, Christopher Columbus. The Parade took place in San Francisco’s downtown featuring the bands and marching units of Italian fraternal organizations, including the Garibaldi Guard, Swiss Guards and Lafayette Guards. Four floats were showcased: the first hosted the statue of Christopher Columbus, the second featured two girls representing Isabella of Spain and America, the third depicted the “Santa Maria” with a sailor dressed as Christopher Columbus; and the fourth honored Italian gardeners featuring their agricultural achievements.

1876 – California accepted a Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella Statue from Darius Ogden. The statue is displayed in the Rotunda of the State Capital. Valued at $30,000, it was crafted by Larkin G. Mead in Florence, Italy. 1892 President Harrison declared October 12, 1492 as the day America was discovered by Christopher Columbus. 1909 California declared October 12 a legal holiday, to be known as “Discovery Day.”

1911 – Assemblyman Dismo M. De Negri of San Francisco changed the name of the holiday to “Columbus Day.” 1910 President Taft declared October 12 to be a legal U.S. holiday. 1915 The San Francisco Columbus Day Committee was organized by the Salesian Fathers of St. Peter and Paul’s Church in the heart of North Beach. The celebration grew to include activities such as the formal grand ball, and a ceremony where a young man and woman were selected by the community to be crowned as the Spanish Monarch’s Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. San Francisco’s “Ferdinand” and “Isabella” presided over the festivities. Roaring 20’s The Parade grew to include marching units, bands, decorated automobiles and floats, with the celebration lasting over three hours and presented to a crowd of thousands. The new Parade route started at San Francisco’s Civic Center, traveled down Market Street through the Financial District, Chinatown and up Columbus Avenue to finish in front of St. Peter and Paul’s Church in the heart of North Beach. Depression Era The sponsorship of the Parade shifted from St. Peters and Paul’s Church to the Federation of Italian societies, an organization representing civic, social and fraternal Italian-American Organizations. In addition, the committee elected to abolish the role of “king” of the celebration and focus the ceremonies on a “queen.”

1942 – The celebration was incorporated into a non-profit corporation known as “Columbus Day Celebration, Inc.” A board of directors, consisting of past presidents, conducted all affairs. The board elected all of the contributing officers, a format that continues to the present day.

1957 – A Christopher Columbus bronze statue was placed in front of Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill. This statue was created by Italian Sculptor, Umberto Cobertaldo, and cost $30,000, which was donated by the Italian-American community.

1992 – The 500-year anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ coming to America was celebrated.

1994 – The Columbus Day Parade evolved into the Italian Heritage Parade in an effort to celebrate the accomplishments and culture of all Italians and Italian Americans.

2003 – This year marks San Francisco’s 135th Italian Heritage Parade, featuring Italian-American dignitaries, music, performances, floats and commerce. Under the theme of “Italian Vintners,” world-renowned wine maker and business leader Robert Mondavi will serve as this year’s Grand Marshal.