John Cabot, an Italian mariner, was born in Genoa, Italy around the year 1450. He worked as a trader in what is now called the Middle East. He moved to England in 1484 with his three sons, Ludovico, Sebastiano, and Sancto and gained experience as a seaman. On his commercial journeys, which took him to the shores of Arabia, he heard of the countries rich in spices that lay to the Far East and wanted to find a better route to the Orient.
John Cabot set out to get patents from the monarchs of Spain and Portugal to obtain support for his voyage. However, both turned him down. Finally, King Henry VII granted Cabot and his three sons the right to seek islands and countries of the West, with a small ship named Matthew and a crew of 18 men. So he set sail from Bristol, England in May 2, 1497.
Cabot never got to China by sea. Almost two months later, John Cabot discovered the island of Newfoundland on June 24, 1497. This was the first documented voyage to Newfoundland. Many people believe he landed at Cape Bonavista. He thought he had reached a small island off the coast of Asia.
On June 26th, Cabot began his return voyage because of bad weather and no food. He returned without any spices or treasure but he received a warm welcome regardless. He did return with mapped out details of the North American coast. He was granted another patent on February 3, 1498, and this allowed him to embark on a second expedition. This was made up of five ships and three hundred men, and set sail some time before July 25, 1498. King Henry VII only granted him one ship but 4 merchants hoping to cash in on a new route to Orient provided the other 4 ships. They first went north, apparently as far as possible; drifting ice forced them to turn. They sailed along the east coast of North America past Newfoundland, which Cabot named Bacallaos, and as far as Cape Hatteras.
John Cabot also may have reached the Hudson Bay on his expedition to the North West Passage. Later he also explored the Rio de la Plata region of Brazil for the Spanish. In 15448 he became governor of a joint stock company in England with he negotiated a commercial treaty with Russia. This company, later called The Muscovy Company, was the first major English joint-stock trading company and financed trading expeditions to Russia and Asia.
Cabot was paid cash for discovering Newfoundland. He was also given a pension. He only collected that pension once. It is believed he drowned at sea. Nevertheless, his discoveries guarantee John Cabot a place among the greatest discoverers. In fact, they are still celebrating his discoveries. The Cabot Tower was built on Signal Hill in St. John’s in 1897. It was built to mark the 400th anniversary of Cabot’s discovery.