On September 2, 1964, the United States Congress passed Joint Resolution 88-566, authorizing the President to proclaim October 9 as Leif Erikson Day.
Leif Eriksson Day commemorates the Norse explorer believed to have led the first European expedition to North America, nearly 500 years before the birth of Christopher Columbus. Around 1001 A.D, a group of European sailors left their homeland behind in search of a new world.
President Calvin Coolidge gave recognition to Leif Erikson as the discoverer of America during his appearance at the Norse-American Centennial celebration at the Minnesota State Fair. This was because of research by scholars such as Knut Gjerset, a Norwegian-American author, historian, and college professor together with Ludvig Hektoen, an American pathologist. Wisconsin was the first U.S. state to adopt Leif Erikson Day as a state holiday in 1929, mainly thanks to efforts by Rasmus Anderson.
In 1931, Minnesota also acknowledged this day. Thanks to the efforts of the Leif Erikson Memorial Association of Saskatchewan, the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan proclaimed—through an order-in-council in 1936—that Leif Ericsson Day would be observed on October 9. By 1956, Leif Erikson Day had been made an official observance in seven states (Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Illinois, Colorado, Washington, and California) and one Canadian province (Saskatchewan).
In 1963, Senator Hubert Humphrey and Representative John Blatnik, both from Minnesota, introduced bills to observe Leif Erikson Day nationwide. On September 2, 1964, Congress unanimously authorized and requested the President to create the observance through an annual proclamation. Lyndon B. Johnson did so that year, as has each president in the years since, often using the proclamation to praise the contributions of Americans of Nordic descent generally and the spirit of discovery.
Bills have also been introduced in the Parliament of Canada to observe Leif Erikson Day.