A huge statue of Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella of Spain dominates the ground floor rotunda of the California Statehouse. As far as we know, Columbus never got to Sacramento. Even sillier, he holds up a sphere to persuade the Queen of the roundness of the earth. Actually, novelist Washington Irving, who invented Rip Van Winkle, popularized the flat-earth fable in 1828 in his best-selling biography of Columbus. Writers of American histories soon picked up the story, and since textbooks tend to be clones of each other, Irving's little hoax persists in some books to this day.
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