OTD: Italian explorer John Cabot granted permission to explore, claim land

On today’s date in 1496, Italian explorer John Cabot was granted a letters patent from King Henry VII to explore trade routes to Asia and claim new land beyond Spanish and Portuguese territories.

While working under the commission of the English king, Cabot likely sailed to either Cape Bonavista or St. John’s, N.L., on the vessel Matthew in search of a westward trade route and unclaimed lands. He’s considered the first European to reach mainland North America after the Vikings’ 11th-century visits to Newfoundland.

Cabot later disappeared while on a voyage before the end of the 15th century.

Cabot’s ship, the Matthew, was featured on a 1949 silver dollar.


In 1997, the Royal Canadian Mint marked the 500th anniversary of Cabot’s initial voyage from Bristol, England, to Canada’s east coast on a 10-cent commemorative Proof coin.

Designed by Emanuel Hahn – the German-born sculptor of Canada’s 10- and 25-cent coins – the commemorative coin had a weight of 2.4 grams, a diameter of 18 millimetres and a mintage of 50,000 pieces.

After Newfoundland joined Confederation as Canada’s 10th province in 1949, the Matthew was featured on a Canadian silver dollar.

Designed by Thomas Shingles, the coin features the famed vessel alongside the phrase “Floreat Terra Nova” (“May the new found land flourish” in Latin).

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