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While it is true that in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue (we'll assume that was the color), he did NOT set out to discover any land masses nor did he ever set foot in North America. Why government offices and banks close to celebrate him may be the biggest mystery of all.

Columbus set sail to find a trade route to the rich markets of eastern Asia.  He thought he could do this by sailing west but, alas, he instead would up in the Caribbean.  He then became a laughing stock by making up the excuse that he was unable to find the route he set sail for because the Earth was pear shaped which caused a miscalculation.  By the way, by Columbus' time, it was already believed the Earth was round, not flat.

What about the stories about Columbus being mean.  Yes, it's true.  In his quest to become wealthy, he captured native Europeans to use and sell as slaves.

Read more in an article at About.com.

You can also find some interesting Columbus facts at Yahoo! Voices.