Arts & Culture Government

Nothing New: Columbus Day Law Wasn’t Easy

Nothing New Under the Sun. Some legislation isn’t easy, on Beacon Hill or in Washington. 

The Italian News reported on Feb. 17, 1956, that 118 legislators backed a bill  to make Columbus Day a legal holiday in Massachusetts, to be celebrated on October 12. Hearings on the bill, held by the Committee on Constitutional Law, attracted one of the largest crowds ever, about 400 people. Retailers opposed making it a legal holiday fearing it would “cripple small stores,” according to a business representative. Among the committee members was State Senator Silvio Conte of Pittsfield, a Republican, who later became  Congressman for the First Congressional District, serving 16 terms until his death at age 69 in 1991. He was one of the most popular members of the House.

However, despite great public support for the bill, Governor Christian Herter didn’t agree, as this Italian News story reported on July 13, 1956.

According to history.com: “In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed Columbus Day a national holiday, largely as a result of intense lobbying by the Knights of Columbus, an influential Catholic fraternal benefits organization. Originally observed every October 12, it was fixed to the second Monday in October in 1971.”

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