THE ATLANTIC COAST LINE EXPLORED. - Columbus having shown the way, English, Spanish, and Portuguese explorers followed. Some came in search of China or the Spice Islands; some were in quest of gold and pearls. The result was the exploration of the Atlantic coast line from Labrador to the end of South America.

SOME FAMOUS VOYAGES. - In 1497 John Cabot, sailing from England, reached Newfoundland, which he believed to be part of China. [1] In 1498 John Cabot and his son Sebastian, while in search of the Spice Islands, sailed along the coast from Newfoundland to what is now South Carolina. [2]

Photographed from the original accounts of the Bristol customs collectors, now in Westminster Abbey, London.]

Before 1500 Spaniards in search of gold, or pearls, or new lands had explored the coast line from Central America to Cape St. Roque. [4]

In 1500 Cabral, while on his way from Portugal to India by Da Gama's route (p. 11), sailed so far westward that he sighted the coast of the country now called Brazil. Cabral went on his way; but sent back a ship to the king of Portugal with the news that the new-found land lay east of the Line of Demarcation. The king dispatched (1501) an expedition which explored the coast southward nearly as far as the mouth of the Plata River.

SOME RESULTS OF THESE VOYAGES. - The results of these voyages were many and important. They furnished a better knowledge of the coast; they proved the existence of a great mass of land called the New World, but still supposed to be a part of Asia; they secured Brazil for Portugal, and led to the naming of our continent.

WHY THE NEW WORLD WAS CALLED AMERICA. - In the party sent by the king of Portugal to explore the coast of Brazil, was an Italian named Amerigo Vespucci (ah-ma'ree-go ves-poot'chee), or Americus Vespucius, who had twice before visited the coast of South America. Of these three voyages and of a fourth Vespucius wrote accounts, They were widely read, led to the belief that he had discovered a new or fourth part of the world, and caused a German professor of geography to suggest that this fourth part should be called America. The name was applied first to what is now Brazil, then to all South America, and finally also to North America, when it was found, long afterward, that North America was part of the new continent and not part of Asia.

Part of a page from Waldseemüller's book Cosmographie Introductio, printed in 1507, now in the Lenox Library, New York.]

BALBOA DISCOVERS THE PACIFIC. - The man who led the way to the discovery that America was not part of Asia was Balbo'a. [6] He came to the eastern border of Panama (1510) with a band of Spaniards seeking gold. There they founded the town of Darien and in time made Balboa their commander. He married the daughter of a chief, made friends with the Indians, and heard from them of a great body of water across the mountains. This he determined to see, and in 1513, with Indian guides and a party of Spaniards, made his way through dense and tangled forests and from the summit of a mountain looked down on the Pacific Ocean, which he called the South Sea. Four days later, standing on the shore, he waited till the rising tide came rolling in, and then rushing into the water, sword in hand, he took possession of the ocean in the name of Spain. [7]

THE PACIFIC CROSSED; THE PHILIPPINES DISCOVERED. - The Portuguese meantime, by sailing around Africa, had reached the Spice Islands. So far beyond India were these islands that the Portuguese sailor Ferdinand Magellan took up the old idea of Columbus, and maintained that they could be most easily reached by sailing west. To this proposition the king of Portugal would not listen; so Magellan persuaded the king of Spain to let him try; and in 1519 set sail with five small ships. He crossed the Atlantic to the mouth of the Plata, and went south till storms and cold drove him into winter quarters. [8] In August, 1520 (early spring in the southern hemisphere), he went on his way and entered the strait which now bears his name. One of the ships had been wrecked. In the strait another stole away and went home. The three remaining vessels passed safely through, and out into an ocean so quiet compared with the stormy Atlantic that Magellan called it the Pacific. Across this the explorers sailed for five months before they came to a group of islands which Magellan called the Ladrones (Spanish for robbers) because the natives were so thievish. [9] Ten days later they reached another group, afterward named the Philippines. [10]

On one of these islands Magellan and many of his men were slain. [11] Two of the ships then went southward to the Spice Islands, where they loaded with spices. One now started for Panama, but was forced to return. The other sailed around Africa, and in 1522 reached Spain in safety. It had sailed around the world. The surviving captain was greatly honored. The king ennobled him, and on his coat of arms was a globe with the motto "You first sailed around me."

RESULTS OF THE VOYAGE. - Of all the voyages ever made by man up to that time, this of Magellan and his men was the greatest. It gave positive proof that the earth is a sphere. It revealed the vast width of the Pacific. It showed that America was probably not a part of Asia, and changed the geographical ideas of the time. [12]

THE COAST OF FLORIDA EXPLORED. - What meantime had happened along the coast of North America? In 1513 Ponce de Leon [13] (pon'tha da la-on'), a Spaniard, sailed northwest from Porto Rico in search of an island which the Indians told him contained gold, and in which he believed was a fountain or stream whose waters would restore youth to the old. In the season of Easter, or Pascua Florida, he came upon a land which he called Florida. Ponce supposed he had found an island, and following the coast southward went round the peninsula and far up the west coast before going back to Porto Rico. [14]

THE GULF COAST EXPLORED. - In 1519 another Spaniard, Pineda (pe-na'da), sailed along the Gulf coast from Florida to Mexico. On the way he entered the mouth of a broad river which he named River of the Holy Spirit. It was long supposed that this river was the Mississippi; but it is now claimed to have been the Mobile. Whatever it was, Pineda spent six weeks in its waters, saw many Indian towns on its banks, traded with the natives, and noticed that they wore gold ornaments.

THE EXPEDITION OF NARVAEZ. - Pineda's story of Indians with gold ornaments so excited Narvaez (nar-vah'eth) that he obtained leave to conquer the country, and sailed from Cuba with four hundred men. Landing on the west coast of Florida, he made a raid inland. When he returned to the coast the ships which were sailing about watching for him were nowhere to be seen. After marching westward for a month the Spaniards built five small boats, put to sea, and sailing near the shore came presently to where the waters of the Mississippi rush into the Gulf. Two boats were upset by the surging waters. The others reached the coast beyond, where all save four of the Spaniards perished.

FOUR SPANIARDS CROSS THE CONTINENT. - After suffering great hardships and meeting with all sorts of adventures among the Indians, the four survivors, led by Cabeza de Vaca (ca-ba'tha da vah'ca), walked across what is now Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Mexico to a little Spanish town near the Pacific coast. They had crossed the continent. [15]

NEW MEXICO EXPLORED. - Cabeza de Vaca had wonderful tales to relate of "hunchback cows," as he called the buffalo, and of cities in the interior where gold and silver were plentiful and where the doorways were studded with precious stones. [16] Excited by these tales, the Spanish viceroy of Mexico sent Fray Marcos to gather further information. [17] Aided by the Indians, Marcos made his way over the desert and came at last to the "cities," which were only the pueblos of the Zuñi (zoo'nyee) Indians in New Mexico. The pueblos were houses several stories high, built of stone or of sun-dried brick, and each large enough for several hundred Indians to live in. But Marcos merely saw them at a distance, for one of his followers who went in advance was killed by the Zuñi, whereupon Marcos fled back to Mexico.

THE SPANIARDS REACH KANSAS. - Marcos's reports about the seven cities of Cibola (see'bo-la), as he called them, aroused great interest, and Corona'do was sent with an army to conquer them. Marching up the east coast of the Gulf of California and across Arizona, Coronado came at last to the pueblos and captured them one by one. He found no gold, but did see doorways studded with the green stones of the Rocky Mountains. Much disappointed, he pushed on eastward, and during two years wandered about over the plains of our great Southwest and probably reached the center of what is now Kansas. [18]

DE SOTO ON THE MISSISSIPPI. - As Coronado was making his way home, an Indian woman escaped from his army, and while wandering about fell in with a band of Spaniards belonging to the army of De Soto. [19]

De Soto, as governor of Cuba, had been authorized to conquer and hold all the territory that had been discovered by Narvaez. He set out accordingly in 1539, landed an army at Tampa Bay, and spent three years in wandering over Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. In the spring of 1542 he crossed the Mississippi River and entered Arkansas, and it was there that one of his bands met the Indian woman who escaped from Coronado's army. In Arkansas De Soto died of fever, and was buried in the Mississippi River. His followers then built a few boats, floated down the river to the Gulf, and following the coast of Texas came finally to the Spanish settlements in Mexico.

THE FRENCH ON THE COAST. - Far to the northeast explorers of another European nation by this time were seeking a foothold. When John Cabot came home from his first voyage to the Newfoundland coast, he told such tales of cod fisheries thereabouts, that three small ships set sail from England to catch fish and trade with the natives of the new-found isle. Portuguese and Frenchmen followed, and year after year visited the Newfoundland fisheries. No serious attempt was made to settle the island. What Europe wanted was a direct westward passage through America to Cathay. This John Verrazano, an Italian sailing under the flag of France, attempted to find, and came to what is now the coast of North Carolina. There Verrazano turned northward, entered several bays along the coast, sailed by the rock-bound shores of Maine, and when off Newfoundland steered for France.

THE FRENCH ON THE ST. LAWRENCE. - Verrazano was followed (1534) by Jacques Cartier (zhak car-tya'), also in search of a passage to Cathay. Reaching Newfoundland (map, p. 114), Cartier passed through the strait to the north of it, and explored a part of the gulf to the west. A year later he came again, named the gulf St. Lawrence, and entered the St. Lawrence River, which he thought was a strait leading to China. Up this river he sailed till stopped by the rapids which he named Lachine (Chinese). Near by was a high hill which he called Mont Real (re-ahl'), or Mount Royal. At its base now stands the city of Montreal. [20] From this place the French went back to a steep cliff where now stands the city of Quebec, and, it is believed, spent the winter there. The winter was a terrible one, and when the ice left the river they returned to France (1536).

Not discouraged, Cartier (1541) came a third time to plant a colony on the river. But hunger, mutiny, and the severity of the winter brought the venture to naught. [21]

NO SETTLEMENTS IN OUR COUNTRY. - From the first voyage of Columbus to the expeditions of De Soto, Coronado, and Cartier, fifty years had passed. The coast of the new continent had been roughly explored as far north as Labrador on the east and California on the west. The Spaniards in quest of gold and silver mines had conquered and colonized the West Indies, Mexico, and parts of South America. Yet not a settlement had been made in our country. Many rivers and bays had been discovered; two great expeditions had gone into the interior; but there were no colonies on the mainland of what is now the United States.


1. The voyage of Columbus led to many other voyages, prompted chiefly by a hope of finding gold. They resulted in the exploration of the coast of America, and may be grouped according to the parts explored, as follows: -

2. The Atlantic coast of North America was explored (1497-1535) by Cabot (for England) - from Newfoundland to South Carolina. Ponce de Leon (for Spain) - peninsula of Florida. Verrazano (for France) - from North Carolina to Newfoundland. Cartier (for France) - Gulf of St. Lawrence.

3. The Gulf and Caribbean coasts of North America were explored (1502- 1528) for Spain by Columbus - Central America. Ponce de Leon - west coast of Florida. Pineda - from Florida to Mexico. Narvaez expedition - from Florida to Texas.

4. The Atlantic coast of South America was explored (1498-1520) by Columbus - mouth of the Orinoco. Other explorers for Spain - whole northern coast. Cabral (for Portugal) - part of eastern coast. Vespucius (for Portugal) - eastern coast nearly to the Plata River. Magellan (for Spain) - to the Strait of Magellan.

5. The Pacific coast of America was explored (1513-1542) for Spain by Balboa - part of Panama. Magellan - part of the southwest coast. Pizarro (note, p. 23) - from Panama to Peru. Cabrillo (note, p. 28) - from Mexico up the coast of California.

6. The Spaniards early established colonies in the West Indies, South America, and Mexico; but fifty years after Columbus's discovery there was no settlement of Europeans in the mainland part of the United States. Several Spanish expeditions, however, had explored (1534-1542) large parts of the interior: - Cabeza de Vaca and his companions walked from Texas to western Mexico, Coronado wandered from Mexico to Kansas. De Soto wandered from Florida beyond the Mississippi River.


[1] This discovery made a great stir in Bristol, the port from which Cabot sailed. A letter written at the time states, "Honors are heaped upon Cabot. He is called Grand Admiral, he is dressed in silk, and the English run after him like madmen." The king gave him £10 and a pension of £20 a year. A pound sterling in those days was in purchasing power quite the equal of fifty dollars in our time.

[2] These voyages of Cabot were not followed up at the time. But in the days of Queen Elizabeth, more than eighty years later, they were made the basis of the English claim to a part of North America.

[3] Bristoll - Arthurus Kemys et Ricardus ap. Meryke collectores custumarum et subsidiorum regis ibidem a festo Sancti Michaelis Archangeli anno XIIII mo Regis nunc usque idem festum Sancti Michaelis tunc proximo sequens reddunt computum de MCCCCXXIIII li. VII S. x d. quadr. De quibus.... Item in thesauro in una tallia pro Johanne Cabot, xx li. Translation: "Bristol - Arthur Kemys and Richard ap Meryke, collectors of the king's customs and subsidies there, from Michaelmas in the fourteenth year of this king's reign [Henry VII] till the same feast next following render their account of £1424 7_s. 10-1/4_d..... In the treasury is one tally for John Cabot, £20."

[4] On one of these voyages the Spaniards saw an Indian village built over the water on piles, with bridges joining the houses. This so reminded them of Venice that they called it Venezuela (little Venice), a name afterward applied to a vast extent of country.

[5] "But now these parts [Europe, Asia, and Africa] have been more widely explored, and another fourth part has been discovered by Americus Vespucius (as will appear in the following pages); so I do not see why any one should rightly object to calling it Amerige or America, i.e. land of Americus, after its discoverer Americus, a man of sagacious mind - since both Europe and Asia are named after women. Its situation and the ways of its people may be clearly understood from the four voyages of Americus which follow."

[6] Vasco Nuñez de Balboa had come from Spain to Haiti and settled down as a planter, but when (1510) an expedition was about to sail for South America to plant a colony near Panama, Balboa longed to join it. He was in debt; so lest his creditors should prevent his going, he had himself nailed up in a barrel and put on board one of the ships with the provisions.

[7] In the course of expeditions along the eastern coast of Mexico, the Spaniards heard of a mighty king, Montezuma, who ruled many cities in the interior and had great stores of gold. In 1519 Cor'tes landed with 450 men and a few horses, sank his ships, and began inland one of the most wonderful marches in all history. The account of the great things which he did, of the marvelous cities he conquered, of the strange and horrible sights he saw, reads like fiction. Six days after reaching the city of Mexico, he seized Montezuma and made himself the real ruler of the country; but later the Mexicans rose against him and he had to conquer them by hard fighting. Read the story of the conquest as briefly told in Fiske's Discovery of America, Vol. II, pp. 245-293.

The Spaniards also heard rumors of a golden kingdom to the southward where the Incas ruled. After preliminary voyages of exploration Francisco Pizarro sailed from Panama in 1531 with 200 men and 50 horses to conquer Peru. Landing on the coast he marched inland to the camp of the Inca, a young man who had just seized the throne. The sight of the white strangers clad in shining armor, wielding thunder and lightning (firearms), and riding unearthly beasts (horses were unknown to the Indians), caused wonder and dread in Peru as it had in Mexico. The Inca was made prisoner and hundreds of his followers were killed. He offered to fill his prison room with gold as high as he could reach if Pizarro would set him free; the offer was accepted and in 1533 some $15,000,000 in gold was divided among the conquerors. The Inca, however, was put to death, and the Spaniards took possession of the whole country.

[8] None of Magellan's vessels were as large as the Santa Maria, and three were smaller than the Niña. The sailors demanded that Magellan return to Spain. When he refused, the captains and crews of three ships mutinied, and were put down with difficulty.

[9] Guam, which now belongs to our country, is one of the Ladrones.

[10] The Spaniards took possession of the Philippines a few years later, and in 1571 founded Manila. The group was named after Philip II of Spain. In 1555 a Spanish navigator discovered the Hawaiian Islands; but though they were put down on the early Spanish charts, the Spaniards did not take possession of them. Indeed, these islands were practically forgotten, and two centuries passed before they were rediscovered by the English explorer, Captain Cook, in 1778.

[11] Magellan was a very religious man, and after making an alliance with the king of the island of Cebu, he set about converting the natives to Christianity. The king, greatly impressed by the wonders the white man did, consented. A bonfire was lighted, the idols were thrown in, a cross was set up, and the natives were baptized. This done, the king called on Magellan to help him attack the chief of a neighboring island; but in the attack Magellan was killed and his men put to flight. This defeat so angered the king that he invited thirty Spaniards to a feast, massacred them, cut down the cross, and again turned pagan.

[12] Read the account in Fiske's Discovery of America, Vol. II, pp. 190-211.

[13] Juan Ponce de Leon had sailed with Columbus on his second voyage, and had settled in Haiti. Hearing that there was gold in Porto Rico, he explored it for Spain, in 1509 was made its governor, and in 1511 founded the city of San Juan (sahn hoo-ahn'). After he was removed from the governorship, he obtained leave to search for the island of Bimini.

[14] He now obtained authority to colonize the supposed island; but several years passed before he was ready to make the attempt. He then set off with arms, tools, horses, and two hundred men, landed on the west coast of Florida, lost many men in a fight with the Indians, and received a wound of which he died soon after in Cuba.

[15] The story of this remarkable march across the continent is told in The Spanish Pioneers, by C. F. Lummis.

[16] There was a tradition in Europe that when the Arabs conquered Spain in the eighth century, a certain bishop with a goodly following fled to some islands far out in the Sea of Darkness and founded seven cities. When the Spaniards came in contact with the Indians of Mexico, they were told of seven caves from which the ancestors of the natives had issued, and jumped to the conclusion that the seven caves were the seven cities; and when Cabeza de Vaca came with his story of the wonderful cities of the north, it was believed that they were the towns built by the bishop.

[17] At an Indian village in Mexico, Marcos heard of a country to the northward where there were seven cities with houses of two, three, and four stories, and that of the chief with five. On the doorsills and lintels of the best houses, he was told, were turquoise stones.

[18] Read The Spanish Pioneers, by C. F. Lummis, pp. 77-88, 101-143. The year that Coronado returned to Mexico (1542) an expedition under Cabrillo (kah-breel'yo) coasted from Mexico along what is now California. Cabrillo died in San Diego harbor.

[19] Hernando de Soto was born about 1500 in Spain, and when of age went to Panama and thence to Peru with Pizarro. In the conquest of Peru he so distinguished himself that on returning to Spain he was made governor of Cuba.

[20] Landing on this spot, Cartier set forth to visit the great Indian village of Hochelaga. He found it surrounded with a palisade of tree trunks set in three rows. Entering the narrow gate, he beheld some fifty long houses of sapling frames covered with bark, each containing many fires, one for a family. From these houses came swarms of women and children, who crowded about the visitors, touched their beards, and patted their faces. Soon the warriors came and squatted row after row around the French, for whom mats were brought and laid on the ground. This done, the chief, a paralyzed old savage, was carried in, and Cartier was besought by signs to heal him, and when Cartier had touched him, all the sick, lame, and blind in the village were brought out for treatment. Read Parkman's Pioneers of France in the New World, pp. 187-193.

[21] As Cartier was on his way home he stopped at the harbor of St. Johns in Newfoundland, a harbor then frequented by fishermen from the Old World. There he was met by three ships and 200 colonists under Roberval, who ordered him to return. But one night Cartier slipped away in the darkness. Roberval went on to the site of Quebec and there planted his colony. What became of it is not known; but that it did not last long is certain, and many years passed before France repeated the attempt to gain a foothold on the great river of Canada.