America NOT named after Amerigo Vespucci!

According to Samuel Eliot Morison’s book The European Discovery of America, the Northern Voyages America is named for
‘John America’ John Cabot’s financial backer.

A far more sensible explanation than that Vespucci fellow.


Presumably the column Simon is referring to is
“Why was America named after Amerigo Vespucci?” ( Unca Cece’s column includes details about how Amerigo’s name became popularized as the name of the continents–perhaps Simon could fill in some of the details about this alternate theory for our review.

That is not quite what Morison’s book said. The only allusion to that possibility is on page 163, where in taking about some of the persons buried in Bristol’s St. Mary Redcliffe church, Morison mentions “…sheriff Richard Amerike, traditionally one of Cabot’s backers and Bristol’s nominee as the person after whom America was named- not Amerigo Vespuuci if you please.” From that one may conclude that there is no documentary proof Amerike was ever actually involved in Cabot’s venture, and the claim that he was the namesake for America is likely only a bit of Bristol boosterism.

Actually, America was named for Vespucci - but not for any good reason. As I remember, Vespucci was never in command of a voyage to the New World; in fact, he was a cabin boy on at least one of them.
But his penchant for overstatement served him well. He has been recorded as a liar and a braggart of the first magnitude, and it is only because of his wealthy and famous cousin (or perhaps in spite of her) that his stories made it to Britain, where a mapmaker was so impressed by Vespucci’s (quite literally) legendary journeys that he inscribed them on a map - and it stuck.
The famous cousin, incidentally, was a noble Italian woman whose portrait was painted by one of the more illustrius artists of the time. Perhaps you’ve heard of it, or even seen it - it hangs in the Louvre. Yes, you guessed it - the Mona Lisa!