The First European to Set Foot in What is Now The US?

This is something that, by all means, I should remember from high school, if not junior high school. I’m very ashamed and embarrassed to admit that I don’t know this. :smack:

Anyway, who was the first European to set foot in what is now the United States of America?

Juan Ponce de Leon, I believe. I’ll find a cite and be right back.


Thanks for the quick reply!

De Leon was probably the first post-Columbus European visitor, but don’t forget the vikings under Lief Erikson. There are rumors and speculation about others, but Erikson’s visit to North America is pretty well established.

Yeah, but not necessarily inside the now-boundaries of the United States.

I thought they only made it as far as what is now Canada? :confused:

(bolding mine)

No, it was Juan Valdez, 2nd mate on the tender crew who jumped out first to pull the boat up the beach so Ponce wouldn’t get his feet wet. Ponce seems to have omitted that little detail.

They are only known to have made it as far as Canada. Newfoundland, to be precise. However, it is likely that they explored the surrounding area at least as far as the coast of Labrador, and possibly as far as the Saint Lawrence seaway. Some have speculated they explored as far as the coast of Maine, which is certainly possible but there’s no evidence to back up that hypothesis. Some crackpots have posited that they explored all over the North American continent, getting far, far into the heartland, but frankly they weren’t in North America long enough for that to be realistic.

So Ponce remains the first European to have undisputedly landed on soil that is now a U.S. State. As far as U.S. Territory is concerned, Colombus himself “landed at Puerto Rico (San Juan Bautista) on November 19, 1493.” (from Wikipedia).

Juan Valdez? The coffee magnate? Cool, consider me enlightened.

Also, there’s some speculation that pre-Clovis “Europeans” might might have hopscotched along the ice “rim” that would have (practically, if not literally)connected North America and Europe. No proof, but it’s an intriguing thought.

Ooops, my bad, I was thinking North America. No offence intended to our Mexican and Canadian friends.

If we include Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands is it Columbus?

John Cabot (Giovanni Cabato) sailed to North America in 1497. Some people think he made it to Maine on this voyage, but Newfoundland or Nova Scotia seems more likely.

He made a second voyage the next year but apparently never returned from it. Nobody really knows if he made it to the U.S., though some sources claim (from what evidence I can’t imagine) that he made it to Chesapeake Bay.

Brendan the Bold. 450-something-or-other A.D.

Legend, nothing more.

Who was the first to circumnavigate the globe? Magellan or Elcano ?
Just making a point that the famous guy in charge can get credit over the small guy.
But the Valdez bit is coffee joke ne?

If you get into the realm of speculation and the hopeful yet far-fetched, there are plenty of candidates for pre-de Soto Europeans setting foot in the US. There are even monuments to them.

1.) A lot of people think the Vikings made it down to New England. AFAIK, no respectable historian believes this. But there’s actually a statue of Leif Ericson, in a rather stubby little Viking boat, on Charlesbank West in Boston. That’s part of the green lawn separatinmg the two halves of Commonwealth Ave. to the west of Massachusetts Avenue (or, as Bostonians put it, between the halves of Comm Ave to the Fenway side of MassAve.)

2.) Other people think the “Newport Tower” was built by Vikings, or by an Icelandic Bishop. It’s in Newport, RI.

3.) Others think that Prince Henry Sinclair landed in Massachusetts (after visiting Canada) in 1398 and buried one of his men in Westford, MA, off 495 to the northwest of Boston. They’ve put up a chaqin perimeter around a rock they believe to be engraved with a memorial to the knight vcarved, they hold, in 1398), and there’;s now a granite marker explaining all this.

4.) The Dighton Rock in Masachusetts has carvings on it, now well-weathered. There have been various claims put forth as to who did the varvings, including Indians (for a change), Irish monks, and Vikings. One of the more interesting claimks was that it was done by Joao Vaz Cortereal, brother of Miguel, before Columbus.

5.) There are lots of others – Welsh Prince Madoc was held to have come over in the 12th century, and there’s a monument to him in Kentucky (!), or the Kensington Rune Stone in Minnesota, carved b Vikings who penetrated suspiciously far into the US without leaving marks elsewhere, or Mystery Hill in Salem, NH, claimed for Irish Monks and Vikings and God knows who else. There are tons of other claimants, but these fascinate me because somebody believed them enough to pay for and erect markers for them sometime in the last 200 years.

I would think that doesn’t necessarily mean that another European was in Florida first. A few alternate theories:

  • Someone from the west indies who learned some spanish from explorers there went to florida and taught a floridan native.

  • the ‘native american’ met in florida might not actually have been native to florida.

Probably pretty obvious possibilities, just thought I’d mention them.

“Ponce”, indeed… :wink: