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|I. Discovery and settlement|
|II. Raids of the buccaneers|
|III. Proposed canal routes|
|IV. The Panama Railroad|
|V. The French failure|
|VI. The American triumph|
|VII. Making the Isthmus health...|
|VIII. An army of workers|
|IX. Constructing the lock type...|
|X. Auxiliary plans and project...|
|XI. Future canal traffic|
|XII. Republic of Panama|
|XIII. Panama-Pacific international...|
|XIV. Panama-California exposit...|
|XV. The land divided--the world...|
|XVI. The monumental task compl...|
|Pronouncing gazetteer of the geographical...|
|Table of Contents|
|List of Illustrations|
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
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|Table of Contents|
Front Cover 1
Front Cover 2
I. Discovery and settlement
II. Raids of the buccaneers
III. Proposed canal routes
IV. The Panama Railroad
V. The French failure
VI. The American triumph
VII. Making the Isthmus healthful
VIII. An army of workers
IX. Constructing the lock type canal
X. Auxiliary plans and projects
XI. Future canal traffic
XII. Republic of Panama
XIII. Panama-Pacific international exposition
XIV. Panama-California exposition
XV. The land divided--the world united
XVI. The monumental task completed
Pronouncing gazetteer of the geographical names most frequently heard in the Canal Zone and Panama
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Back Cover 1
Back Cover 2
^9V-7--33 (r-) 2
Gift of the Panama Canal Museum
Digitized by the Internet Archive
Copyright, Harris & Ewing, Washington, D. C.
COLONEL GEORGE WASHINGTON GOETHALS,
THE BUILDER OF THE PANAMA CANAL,
Who might be classed as the most absolute despot on earth, although a benevolent one, and the
squarest boss a man ever worked for. He is a thorough engineer, a righteous judge, and a stern
executioner rolled into one. He realizes that man is but human, and for simple infractions of
the rules, is always ready to give the offender another chance, but there will be no second time.
A man of prodigious memory, quick to grasp details be they trivial affairs of every day life, or
questions of moment; an ear for every one, and the friend of all. The American Nation owes
much to the men who rendered yeoman service on the Isthmus; they cannot be too highly re-
warded. It owes much to that peerless leader, George Washington Goethals, who, for over six
long years has kept the goal steadily in sight, who has never, for a single instant, permitted his de-
termination to waver, who has fought inch by inch until every obstacle has been overcome, and
who, through his forceful personality and sense of justice, has compelled the admiration of every-
one with whom he has come in contact.
PANORAMA AND STORY OF
THE CONSTRUCTION AND
OPERATION OF THE
WORLD'S GIANT WATERWAY
FROM OCEAN TO OCEAN
BY RALPH EMMETT AVERY
A TRIP TO THE PANAMA CANAL
WILLIAM C. HASKINS
OF THE CANAL RECORD
THE REGAN PRINTING
RALPH E. AVERY
DEDICATED TO THE
MEN OF BRAIN AND BRAWN OF OUR COUNTRY, WHOSE
'MATCHLESS SKILL AND INSPIRING COURAGE
MADE THE DREAM OF AGES A REALITY
IN THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE
HE eighth wonder of the world, the crowning
achieveinent of man's greatest undertaking,
is the construction of the Panama Canal 1.b
-the Government of the United States and,
since this stupendous work has been accomplished in
much shorter time than was thought possible, there are
necessarily many reasons for congratulations for the
skill and perseverance displa-edl aidel from the fact
that in completing this enterprise our government has
at the same time succeeded in changing the commercial
highways of the world.
Doubtless for centuries to come the world-wonders
of the Panama Canal will be told in story and in picture,
but the eloquence of the theme itself will never be ex-
hausted while reverence for mighty deeds finds lodg-
Irient in the hearts of men.
Recognizing as much as one man could the magni-
tude and importance of the work eting performed on
the Isthmus, the Author for almost two years dwelt
among the activities of this gigantic enterprise, and in
these pages authentically presents to the reader his
chronicles of the Itel-by-step progrew, of the construc-
tion from beginning to completion. as well as the sue-
cessful installation of the world's majestic waterway
from ocean to ocean.
Clothed as it is in a beauty of typlogil'hly and art
illustrations in keeping with the grandeur of the subject
he feels assured of a cordial reception on the part of
the public of the result of his efforts.
*, 'i-... -"!
~~ ~ *
** '* *
. ., .:^
SUNRISE, SUNSET AND MOONLIGHT SCENES ON PANAMA BAY.
During February and March the moon is particularly bright, due to the clear atmosphere
which prevails in the height of the dry season. On certain brilliant evenings it is possible to
read in the moonlight. The cloud effects are perfect and the rainbows magnificent. One of the
prettiest effects, which happens but rarely, is a rainbow at night.
~s~ ~ ~~
HE history of the Panama Canal begin with the search for a western
waterway to the Indies, and for fame and gold, by those hardy
adventurers who followed in the wake of Columbus. These men,
fresh from the Moorish wars, and equipped for a struggle with Italy
which did not come to pass, looked for new fields to conquer. Nothing suited
them better than the discovery of a New World peopled by heathens waiting
to be converted by the sword to the Christian faith, after their gold, of which
they seemed to have plenty, was stripped from them to fill the empty coffers
This search by the followers of Columbus was fairly successful, so far as
fame and gold were concerned and, although no direct water route was found
to the Indies to the west, it naturally led to the settlement of the Isthmus of
Panama, the narrow strip of land separating the two great oceans and forming
the connecting link between North and South America. The establishment
of settlements on both coasts and the short distance between them, led to the
building of crude roads and trails for the early mule trains. These trails led
to the construction of a railroad, and the railroad to a ship canal, for trade
follows settlers, and water is the natural highway between nations. The story
of the Isthmus is, therefore, in a measure, the evolution of transportation routes.
The first European to sail along the coast of Panama was Rodrigo de
Bastidas, who sailed from Cadiz in October, 1500, and first touched the
continent near the island of Trinidad, and from there went west as far as
Nombre de Dios. With him on that voyage vwa Vasco Nufiez de Balboa, who,
later, was to discover the great South Sea, and Juan de la Cosa. who had sailed
with Columbus on his second voyage and was considered one of the most able
mariners of his day.
Columbus sailed from Cadiz on his fourth and last voyage in search of a
passageway to the Indies in May, 1502. On this voyage he skirted the shores
of Honduras and Costa Rica, to Almirante Bay and Chiriqui Lagoon on the
coast of Panama. At the latter place he was told by the Indians' that, if he
i J TAN-PD ,DIVIDED --c-R E O ?_J U ITD
would continue his course to the east, he would soon come to a narrow place
between the two seas, and this led him to believe that his search for a strait was
nearing success; that he would soon pass into the Indian Ocean and thence
around the Cape of Good Hope to Spain, surpassing the achievement of Vasco
de Gama, the Portuguese, who had
already sailed around Africa (1497-
1498) in his search for a water route to
the Indies. Columbus continued on his
way and passed the site of the present
city of Colon at the Atlantic entrance to
the Canal, and on November 2, 1502,
arrived at a harbor 18 miles nortlhea.t,
which he named Porto Bello, signifying
beautiful port. He stayed there a week
stormbound, and then continued on
lpat Nomlre de Dios, thus overlapping
the voyage of Bastidas. He gave up
his uiii-ucce tful search for a strait
eventually, and took to the more prac-
tical work of hunting for gold. His
a' attempt to found a colony at the mouth
of the Rio Belen, southwest of Colon,
failed, and on May 1, 1503, he sailed
from the shores of the Isthmus. He
died on May 20, 1506, still believing
that he had discovered the eastern
shores of Asia. This belief was shared
by all the early voyagers until the dis-
Statue of Columbus and Indian Girl. Pre- covery of the Pacific Ocean in 1513.
sented to General Mosquera of Colombia in
1868, by the Empress Eugenie, and afterwards THE FIRST SETTLEMENT
turned over to Count DeLesseps. Now occu-
pies a commanding position on Cristobal Point. After the unsuccessful attempt of
Columbus to found a settlement in
Castilla del Oro (Golden Castile), as the Isthmus was termed, two colonizers
were sent out by King Ferdinand. One of these, Diego de Nicuesa, a Spanish
nobleman, more fitted for the court than for a command in the wilderness, was
given control of all the land between Cape Gracias A Dios, Nicaragua, and the
Gulf of Uraba, or Darien, the eastern limit of the present Republic of Panama.
The other was Alonso de Ojeda, who accompanied Columbus on his second
vovyge, and in addition had made two trips to the continent independently.
Ojeda was placcil in charge of the land east and south of the Gulf of UrabA
called Nueva Andalucia. Both of these expeditions outfitted and sailed from
Santo Domingo in November, 1509.
Associated with Ojeda were Juan de la Cosa, as lieutenant in the future
government, and a lawyer named Bachelleer Enciso, who furnished most of
the money to equip the expedition. It was arranged that Enciso should remain
at Santo Domingo to collect recruits and supplies, procure another ship, and join
Ojeda later at the proposed colony.
Ojeda landed near the present city of Cartagena, Colombia, founded in
1531. Here he attacked and overcame the Indians with a part of his force,
[ 10 1
cE TAM D DIVIDED U----E WO JTNITED
but in following up his victory, his men became scattered, and all those who had
landed were killed, with the exception of himself and one other. Among the
killed was the veteran Juan de la Cosa. Ojeda then entered the Gulf of
Uraba and founded the town of San Sebastian on the eastern shore, but was
soon compelled to return to Santo Domingo to obtain men and supplies. He
left the new colony in charge of his lieutenant, Francisco Pizarro, famous in his-
tory as the conqueror and despoiler of Peru, with the understanding that if he did
not return within 50 days the colonit, should decide among themselves the best
course to follow. He finally reached Santo Domingo, after suffering ship-
wreck and many hardships on the island of Cuhla. and found that Enciso had
departed long before with abundant supplies for the colony, but he was unable
to recruit another force to follow.
Pizarro and his men, suffering for lack of food, waited anxiously and in
vain for the return of Ojeda, and then abandoned the colony and sailed for
Cartagena. Here they found Enciso with reinforcements and provisions.
With Enciso was a stowaway in the person of Vasco Nuilez de Balboa. Enciso
insisted on Pizarro and his men returning with him to San Sebastian. On their
arrival, they found the settlement destroyed by Indians. They were without
food, and at the suggestion of Balboa, who had sailed along these shores with
Bastidas, they crossed the Gulf of Urali. where it was reported the Indians
were less warlike and prioviions could be obtained. It ;ws necessary, however,
for them to defeat a band of Indians under a powerful chief named Cemaco,
who disputed their landing, but they obtained the much needed supplies, and
founded the settlement of Santa Maria de la Antiguia, the first on the Isthmus.
They were now in the territory which had been a ,igued by the King to Nicuesa
and, consequently, had no right there. The ambitious Balboa took advantage
Columbus Island where Christopher Columbus stopped to repair and scrape the
bottom of his ships before proceeding on to Spain.
[ 11 1
S jD DIVIDED D T NTED
of this circiiistance and the fact that Enciso was disliked by his men, for the
reason that he allowed no private trading with the Indians, to depose him, and
asked Nicuesa to come and take charge of the colony.
November 2, 1502, Columbus arrived at this harbor, 18 miles northeast of Colon, which he
named Porto Bello, signifying beautiful port. Rock for the concrete used in the locks at Gatun
was obtained at this point.
Nicuesa had already sailed from Santo Domingo, taking along with him
about 700 colonists. During the voyage, a terrific storm arose, wrecking some
of his ships and causing the loss of 400 lives. In the tempest the ships became
separated; some of them reached the coast at the mouth of the Belen River,
and others the mouth of the Chagres River. After collecting his men, Nicuesa
left the Belen River, and after doubling Manzanillo Point shortly landed,
saying: "We will remain here in the name of God." This was the site of the
town of Nombre de Dios, the oldest existing settlement on the Isthmus. During
American canal times, the sand for the concrete in Gatun Locks was obtained
here, and in 1910 and 1911, the sand dredge cut through the hulks of two old
ships, believed to be relics of the days of Nicuesa. The dredge pumps also
drew up bullets and other small articles.
Nicuesa's situation was desperate, as he was without arms or provisions,
but fortunately there arrived shortly his lieutenant Colmenares, who brought
supplies, as well as information concerning the new settlement at Antigua.
Nicuesa declared his intention of going there and taking all the gold found by
Ojeda's men as rightfully belonging to him. News of his intention reached
Antigua before he did and, on his arrival, he was met by an armed mob,
secretly urged on by Balboa, which cast him adrift in a leaky brigantine along
with 17 followers who had remained faithful to him. They were never heard
of again. Of the two expeditions, one was now left at Antigua, and of the two
men sent by the King of Spain to colonize the mainland, both were gone.
Balboa the stowaway ruled in Darien, March 1, 1511.
DISCOVERY OF THE SOUTH SEA
The first move Balboa made on finding himself in charge of the colony was
to secure his position by persuading Enciso and those who had led the mob in
[ 12 ]
C JI.E T DIVIDED C--jRE WOPrA UNITED
the attack on Nicuesa to return to Spain. Knowing that they would immedi-
ately go to the King and ask that he be dispossessed, he started in to obtain the
gold which he knew the King thought more of than all else, and to make new
discoveries which would help his cause. The gold he obtained from the
Indian chiefs of the Darien. It was made the price of peace, and Balboa
showed his shrewdness by making allies of the Indians after he had obtained
their treasure. Such an alliance he made with Careta, the cacique of Coyba,
who after his village had been sacked by the Spaniards, left with Balboa one of
his daughters as a hostage. Balboa accepted the Indian maiden, of whom
he became very fond and, although they were ever married according to the
Christian rites, she considered herself his wife.
Balboa started from Antigua on September 6, 1513, to cross the Isthmus
and find the great sea to the south, of which the Indians, knowing the cupidity
of the Spaniards, had told him glowing tales of the riches of the great race of
people which inhabited its shores. Fighting the different tribes which he met
on the way, subduing and making friends with them, on September 25, he
reached a hill in Darien from which it was said the South Sea could be seen.
Halting his men, Ballbo, made the ascent alone, and was the first European to
gaze upon this heretofore unknown ocean. Six days later, September 29, 1513,
four hundred years ago, he waded into the ocean and took possession in the
name of the sovereigns of Spain. This was in the Gulf of San Miguel, so named
for the reason that it was discovered on St. Michael's Day. He also performed
a similar ceremony when he reached a point of land at the entrance to the gulf.
Balboa subdued the local Indian chiefs, who gave him presents of gold and also
many pearls from the Pearl Islainds a few miles off the shore, and cotlfirne'd
the rumors of a powerful and rich nation to the south. The Pearl Islands, so
A family of Indians, Darien.
[ 13 ]
CMJE bTAN-D DIVIDED O----cLHED O _TTITED
named by Balboa, could be plainly seen, but he did not visit them at that time
on account of the roughness of the sea and the frailty of the available Indian
canoes. He named the largest of the islands, Isla Rica, which is now known
as San Miguel, or Rey Island.
Nombre de Dios, the oldest existing settlement on the Isthmus. Sand was obtained
here for the cement used in the Gatun Locks.
Balboa returned triumphant to Antigua after an absence of about four
months. His messenger telling of his great discovery did not reach the King,
unfortunately, until after that monarch, listening to Enciso's complaints, had
sent out a new governor to take charge of the colony.
BALBOA'S UNFORTUNATE END
The new governor was named Pedro Arias de Avila, commonly called
"Pedrarias the Cruel," which nickname he won in the New World by his
method of extorting gold from the Indians. With Pedrarias was Hernando de
Soto, who was later to discover the Mississippi River, and Diego de Almagro,
who was to become the partner of Pizarro in the conquest of Peru. Unlike
Balboa, Pedrarias did not try to make friends with the Indians, but in many
instances repaid the hospitality which they extended to him as a friend of
Balboa with the utmost treachery,
destroying their villages, killing
women and children, and selling
those who survived into slavery.
tbas lHe undid what Balboa had been in
a fair way of accomplishing, that is,
Sthe settlement of Darien, for the In-
dians were everywhere aroused and
repaid cruelty with cruelty as often
as an opportunity was presented.
Pedrarias strove to establish
Sa line of posts for communication
between the two oceans in accord-
ance with the ideas of Balboa, but
Shrines are common along the waysides and at without success. The first of these
the entrance to villages, but this one has been was located on the Atlantic coast
placed in a hollow tree. The photographer dis- at a place named Santa Cruz.
covered it near Gorgona.
cTRE T3 DIVIDED --r-t7E OROD, UNITED
In the meantime, the King had recognized Balboa's discovery with a
commission as Adelantado of the South Seas and Viceroy of the Pacific coast,
an empty title, as he was subject to the orders of Pedrarias. Pedraria-. jealous
of Balboa's achievement, held up this commission
and kept Balboa fighting for his liberty in the court
of Antigua on trumped up charges. Finally Balboa
made an alliance with Pedrarias by promising to
marry one of his daughters, who was at that time
in Spain, and went a few miles up the coast to a
place called Acla, between Antigua and Santa Cruz,
where he established a settlement and had timbers *
cut and shaped which could be readily built into
ships with which to explore the new sea which he
had discovered. These timbers were carried acr r,,
the Isthmus by Indian slaves and were set up in
San Miguel Bay.
While at the Pearl Islands, from where he made
several short cruises, Balboa heard of the coming
of a new governor to supersede Pedrariia,. Think-
ing this governor might be hostile to his plans, he
sent messengers to Antigua to see whether or not he
had arrived. If he had, he instructed the messengers
to return without allowing their presence to become
known, and he would then leave on his voyage of
discovery before orders for his recall could b)e
delivered. His messengers went to Antigini and
found Pedrarias still in cmaro-e. for the new governor A wayside cross, or shrine.
fu a. .a stl in t) 1Some of these are very old.
had died on his arrival. 6ne of them, however,
told Pedrarias that Balboa was contemplating treachery and the founding of
an independent colony on the Pacific coast. The bitterness and jealousy
Village of San Miguel on Rey Island, one of the larger of the Pearl Island Group.
[ 15 1
OE TJA3JD DIVIDE D ---cE -H3 pOO 3D WITED
of Pedrarias for Balboa again came to life, and he sent Francisco Pizarro,
who was later to finish the work Balboa had planned to do, to bring `im back
to Acla. At Acla, Balboa was given a mockery of a trial for treason and was
beheaded with four companions in the latter part of 1517. Second only to
the discovery of the South Sea was the demonstration of the practicability of
an Isthmian transit.
SETTLEMENT OF OLD PANAMA
Pedrarias seeing the advantage of a settlement on the new ocean as an
outfitting station for future exploring expeditions, crossed the Isthmus and, on
August 15, 1519, founded Panama, situated about five miles east from the new
city. The name "Panama" is supposed to have come from an Indian word
meaning a place abounding in fish, and tradition relates that the town was built
on the site of an Indian fishing village. In the same year the Atlantic port was
transferred to Nombre de Dios, directly north of old Panama, and a few years
later Antigua and Acla were abandoned to the Indians.
Some of the interior villages have no jails stout enough to hold a prisoner,
so the stocks are resorted to.
On September 15, 1521, the settlement at Panama was made a city by
royal decree, and the first bishopric in the Americas was removed there from
Antigua. The new governor sent out, opportunely for Pedrarias, died on his
arrival, as did several others who followed, and Pedrarias ruled until the arrival
of Pedros de los Rios, who took charge on July 30, 1526. Before his arrival,
Pe lr;irias took refuge in Nicaragua where he had already established a settle-
SPAIN S POWER SPREADS
Following this period in Isthmian history many parties set out inland to
explore the country, and outposts were located in the provinces of Chiriqui and
Veraguas. These explorations were made in accordance with the desires of
Charles V, who took a great interest in the exploration of the South Sea and the
discovery of a strait connecting it with the Atlantic Ocean. After he came to
the throne of Spain in 1516, he charged the governors of his American colonies
to examine the coast line from Darien to Mexico for a possible waterway.
In accordance with this policy, Gil Gonzales de Avila was sent out from
NNEIvW DIVIDED ----crE WORP_ JN[ITED
Spain in 1521, with instructions to make a search along the coast for the western
opening of a strait. Gonzales dismantled and transported his ships a.crs, the
Isthmus and rebuilt them on the Pacific side. In January, 15, he sailed from
Panama bay and went as far as the Bay of Fonsecn, where he landed and
discovered Lake Nicaragua. On this voyage Gonzales met men sent out on
similar service by Cortez, who, later, established a transit route across the Isth-
mus of Tehuantepec in Mexico, following pretty closely the present railroad.
This route was started in much the same manner as the one across Darien,
through the necessity of transporting suitable lumber from the Atlantic coast of
the Isthmus to build ships with which to explore the Pacific coast. When
Pedrarias learned of the discovery of Lake Nicaragula, he immediately laid
claim to it, and as the country was rich in gold, established a city at Granada
Old Fort at Porto Bello.
near the shores of the lake after subduing the Indians. In 1529, Captain
Diego Machuca thoroughly explored the lake and discovered its eastern outlet,
the San Juan River. Sailing down this stream he finally reached the Atlantic
Ocean, and sailed along the coast until he arrived at Nombre de Dios, thus
opening up another route across the American Isthmus.
The first extensive explorations to the south were the voyages of Pizarro
and Almagro in 1524, which ended in the conquest of Peru. In 1527, an
expedition sailed up the Rio Grande, carried their canoes across the divide
at Culebra to a tributary of the Chagres, down which they sailed to its mouth,
thus going over the present Canal route.
PERIOD OF THE GREAT TRADE
Permanent settlements were now located at Nombre de Dios and at
Panama, and between these two points was established a paved trail or "royal
c[Tflr N J)IVIDED --r B WQOIJD, TNITED
highway," for the commerce across the Isthmus at that time was steadily on
the increase, making Panama a place of mercantile importance. In 1534, a
route by water for boats and light draft vessels was established from Nombre
de Dios along the coast and up the Chagres River to the head of navigation at
Cruces. From Cruces there was another trail to the city of Panama. Over
these trails pack trains carried on the trade, the river being used in the wet
seasons, and when the altactks of the Indians and Cimaroons, (negro slaves,
who rebelled and were outlawed), became too frequent on the overland trail.
This trade consisted of gold and ornaments stripped from the temples of the
Incas, gold from the mines of Darien and Veraguas on the Isthmus, silver from
Bolivia, pearls, and also wool, indigo, mahogany, dye woods, cocoa, and
tobacco, all bound for Spa iii. for which the colonists received clothing and food-
The three ancient bells of Cruces. This town was one of the oldest on the Isthmus, and was
the head of navigation on the Rio Chagres before the days of the railroad. Abandoned in 1913
on account of its being in the lake area.
stuffs in return. For nearly two hundred years the trails from Panama to the
towns of Nombre de Dios and Porto Bello were the richest trade routes in the
world. Some of this trade even originated across the Pacific in the Philippines
and the Indies. Later, after the period of the great trade, 1550-1750, and up
to the time of the Pu;aniii railroad, the part water and part overland trail from
the mouth of the Chagres to Cruces, 34 miles, and thence to Panama, 18 miles,
vw;as used by the colonists when California and Oregon were opened to settle-
ment, and by the gold seekers in California in the days of '49.
After Nombre de Dios was destroyed in 1597 by Sir Francis Drake, the
royal port was chlangedt to Porto Bello, 17 miles to the southwest. This change
was beneficial, as Nombre de Dios was always unhealthful, while Porto Bello
had a better harbor and was nearer to the mouth of the Chagres and Panama.
[ 18 ]
Cr-B TuA N-D
DIVIDED E--I<7E WQORJaJ FITTED
Porto Bello became one of the strongest fortified of the Spanish settlements in
the New World. Here, came the Spanish galleons once a year to collect the
King's treasure, and to bring supplies for the colonists, and here, each year, on
the arrival of the ships, the merchants would congregate to take part in a big
fair which was held during the annual visit of the fleet.
The town is situated on a bay about a mile and a half long by 2,500 feet
wide, and the ruins of five of the six forts which guarded it, as well as an old
custom house, can still be seen, although partly covered with jungle growth.
One of the six forts was on the side of the hill on the opposite side of the bay
from the old town and where the Isthmian Canal Commission has been quarry-
ing rock for the past four years for Canal work, and it -was dug away by steam-
shovels. After Porto Bello became the royal port on the Atlantic, the Chagres
Mouth of the Chagres River. The old fort on the left and one of the turrets on the right.
River and the Cruces trail came into general use as a highway, although there
was also an overland road. and to protect this route from pirates who were
becoming old enougl to attack fortified town,. Fort San Lorenzo was built in
1601 at the river mouth.
THE SCOTCH BUBBLE
England lost its opportunity in 1698-1700 to gain a foothold in the Isthmian
trade by failing to lend its aid to the colonization scheme of William Patterson,
a Scotch financier, who had already founded the Bank of Englalid. Patterson's
plan, which eventually cost about 2,000 lives and $100,000 in money, was
designed to break up the monopoly of the British East India Company in the
Oriental trade by founding a colon y on the shores of Darien, and opening up a
free trade route across the Isthmus from Ada to the Gulf of San liguel. over
the same route taken by Balboa nearly 200 years before. Permission for the
[ 19 ]
- U- lLv--
9ci_ TiPD ,DIVIDED AMGP& WUITP _U JITE
formation of the company with this end in view was obtained from King William.
His approval, however, was later withdrawn at the instigation of the East India
Company, when it realized that its monopoly was in jeopardy, and instructions
were issued to the governors of the British colonies in the West Indies and
North America to withhold any aid to the Scots who had already departed for
Darien. The opposition of the East India Company forced the new project
to return all the money subscribed for stock in England, and to raise the
necessary funds in Scotland only.
On November 1, 1698, three ships and two tenders containing 1,200 men
reached the Darien from Leith, and founded the town of New Edinburgh on
the Gulf of Calidonia, near Acla. Here they were welcomed by the San Bias
Indians who saw in them future allies against the Spaniards. But the Scots
had no intention of fighting, much to the disappointment of the Indians, although
they must have known that their invasion would be resisted by the Spaniards.
The first expedition managed to stay eight months, during which time their
numbers were sadly reduced by sickness and famine. On June 20, 1699,
two hundred and fifty survivors, with Patterson who had gone out to the colony
as a volunteer, and whose wife and son had died there, left for New York, which
place they reached on August 13. Meanwhile, the company at home, not
knowing of the abandonment of the colony, sent out a second band of 300
recruits. This party arrived at New Edinburgh on August 13, the same day
that their predecessors reached New York. Finding the half-completed Fort
St. Andrew deserted, they immediately left for Jamaica with the exception of
a few men who insisted upon remaining. A third expedition consisting of
four ships and 1,300 men was sent out from Scotland, and reached New Edin-
burgh on November 30, although rumors of the failure of the first attempt had
At last the Spaniards determined to oust the invaders who, unable to
accomplish much on account of internal bickerings, the opposition of England,
and a high death rate, sent out a fleet of ships from Cartagena on February
25, 1700, to invest the port by sea, while a land force blockaded it in the rear.
On March 31, after many sorties against the Spanish forces, the colonists
surrendered and were allowed to depart with honors. The colony had been
reduced to about 360 persons, and these were so sick and feeble that it is said
the Spaniards had to help them aboard their ships and set the sails for them.
"A Nation given to the world,
A giant's task begun,
Show what our Uncle Sam can do
In an orbit of the sun.
O great indeed is our Uncle Sam
And his greatness ne'er shall cease!
For greatest of all his conquests won,
Are his victories of peace!"
[ 20 ]
[ 'I]PAIN monopolized the early trade with its colonies and this policy
eventually lost its control of the countries of Central and South
j Anerica. The first direct result was the entering of English, French
and Dutch free traders and later, buccaneers and pirates, all of whom
ranged up and down the coast of the Spanishli Main preying upon commerce
and even attacking the fortified towns.
Up to the time Sir Henry Morgan became Governor of Jamaica, after the
sack of Panama in 1671, there was very little difference between free traders,
privateers, buccaneers and pirates, their object heing the same,-the easy
acquisition of gold and other loot by preying upon the commerce of Spain.
From 1550 to 1750, the Isthmian trade route was open to such attacks. After
the sack of Panama, however, England endeavored to put a stop to piracy in
the West Indies (Jamaica was the outfitting station for many ships sailing under
commissions granted by the governor who received a share in the spolils), and
after that time the pirates were hunted as a common enemy, and they in turn
preyed upon the shipping of all nations.
The result of the depredations of these freebooters finally forced Spanish
shipping o give the waters of the Indies a wide berth, and to take the longer
route through the Straits of Magellan to the colonies on the Pacific, although
this trade was already beginning to decline, partly through the failure of the
colonies to develop after the easily won treasures of the Incas began to give out,
and partly through the decadence of Spain as a sea power.
The free traders, who finally developed into pirates, were generally
welcomed by the colonists, unofficially, as Spain was not a manufacturing
country and was unable to supply their needs, and because it was greatly to their
benefit. to obtain goods of a better quality upon which no taxes had been paid
to the King. The traders were forbidden entry into the ports, and were com-
pelled to smuggle their goods in at convenient points along the coast and in
secret harbors. The custom of treating these men as pirates when caught,
naturally led them to protect themselves and, when the opportunity offered,
to retaliate in kind, and they finally became buccaneers or pirates in name as
well as in fact. The name buccaneer was given to the free traders by the
[ 21 ]
CME L DN-. DIVIDED --CT-H E WRO DTITED
boucanicrs, men cingaged in supplying them with smoke-cured meat for their
The first Englishman to make his
West Indies was Sir Francis Drake.
Sir Henry Morgan.
name feared by the Spanish in the
In 1568, Sir John Hawkins, with
an English fleet, entered the harbor
of Vera Cruz, Mexico, to trade
with the Spaniards. He was re-
ceived by the officials of the port
in a friendly manner and invited to
anchor. As soon as his ships were
anchored under the guns of the
forts, he was attacked and all his
ships destroyed, with the exception
of two which managed to escape,
one belonging to himself and the
other to his cousin Francis Drake.
Drake returned to England and
endeavored to obtain satisfaction
for his losses through his govern-
ment, but was unable to do so. He
then decided to collect his own
indemnity by attacking Spanish
shipping as he had been attacked.
He obtained Letters of Marque from
Queen Elizabeth, and, in 1571-1572,
made two preliminary voyages to
the West Indies, principally to pre-
pare for future raids and to learn
how the Spaniards handled the golden harvest from Peru. In 1572, he re-
turned with two ships, in the holds of which were stored the parts of three
small sailing boats, and on July 29, having put the boats together, he attacked
and captured Nombre de Dios where the King's treasure house was at that
time located. He would have made a rich haul of the gold waiting for the
arrival of the fleet from Spain had he not been wounded in the assault on the
Drake then made his headquarters on the coast, and made many forays
on shipping, even taking ships from under the guns of Cartagena. With the
help of the Ind1iani,. who since the days of Pedrarias were always ready to help
the enemies of Spain, and of the Cimaroons (as escaped negro slaves who had
banded together in the jungle and waged continual war on the Spanish pack
trains were called), he crossed the Isthmus to the Pacific, in time to see a Peru-
vian plate fleet riding at anchor in the bay of Panama. He planned to ambush
the pack train carrying the treasure from this fleet near Venta Cruz, or Cruces,
but failed to obtain any gold, the Spaniards aware of his presence, sending a
train of mules bearing provisions in advance. He captured and sacked
iCruces but, as this was merely a stopping place for the pack trains, he procured
very little booty. Another ambush outside of Nombre de Dios was more
successful, his men taking away all the gold they could carry and burying
c]TI JAD DIVIDED c H---G]WE WORBl TINITED
several tons of silver in the vicinity. In 1573, he returned to England and
started to organize a fleet to go to the Pacific, but John Oxenham who had been
with him when he crossed the Isthmts,. forestalled him in his desire to be the
first Englishman to sail upon those waters.
John Oxenham crossed the Isthmus in 1575, with the help of the Indiain.
over the same route traversed by Balboa, and launched a small boat on the
Pacific. He stayed in the vicinity of the Pearl Islands taking several small
Spanish prizes, and finally captured one of the treasure galleons from Peru.
Oxenhani and his crew were finally captu red by the Spaniards and put to death.
Drake returned to the West Indies on November 15, 1577, sailed through
the Straits of Magellan, swept the west coast of South America as far north as
California, without attacking the city of Panama, crossed the Pacific. passedt
around the Cape of Good Hope and landed in England in 1580, having gione
completely around the world. In 1595, he again returned to the Isthmus, and,
with Sir John Hawkins, captured and burned Nombre de Dios, and started
across the Isthmus to attack the city of Panama, but the Spaniards had barri-
caded the royal road so effectively that the English gave up the attempt. They
went to Porto Bello instead, and just previous to the attack on that place,
January 28, 1596, Drake died and was buried at the mouth of the bay.
Drake's example was followed by William Parker, who attacked and sacked
Porto Bello in 1602. From the time of Drake, Porto Bello had little rest from
attack; its forts were rebuilt only to be again destroyed.
FALL OF OLD PANAMA
Henry Morgan was one of the first of the pirates to attack the mainland.
In June. 1668, he plundered Porto Bello, and at that time sent a message to
Section of wall and Spanish cannon, with embrasure, in old fort at Porto Bello.
[ 23 ]
-E Dj_ DIVIDED ---- E WIIOJ N-ITIED
the Governor of Panama that he would return in a short time to take that city.
As he promised, he returned to the Isthmus two years later, sent an advance
force, which attacked and captured Fort San Lorenzo at the mouth of the
Chagres, placed a garrison there and at Porto Bello, and started up the Chagres
and overland with 1,200 men, the Spaniards retreating before him. It took the
Englishmen nine days to make the journey, and they suffered greatly for want
of food as the Spaniards in their retreat on Panama laid waste to the country.
Panama was captured on January 28, 1671. Before the city fell fire broke out
and the place was entirely ruined. Morgan was accused of having set fire to
the town, but it was more likely that it was caused by a spark blown into an
open powder magazine, which had been ordered destroyed by the Governor,
Don Juan Perez de Guzman. However, Morgan stayed in the ruins nearly a
month, collecting booty, and also plundered the neighboring islands and the
surrounding country. He then returned to San Lorenzo, and sailed to Jamaica
with the la rget share of the booty, leaving his companions to leave the Isthmus
as best they could. The attack on Panalma was made when England was at
peace with Spain, and the British Government was forced to suppress buccan-
eering in Jamaica on account of the storm of protest aroused. Morgan was
made Lieutenant-Governor of Jamaica, was later knighted and became
governor of the island, in which capacity he did good work in suppressing
piracy. His appointment would appear to have been made by the King on the
theory that it takes a thief to catch a thief.
Although Drake and Morgan were no longer feared, the Isthmus was riot
yet free from the raids of numerous other pirates, French and English, who
Wall of the old fort at Porto Bello, showing entrance, and watch tower.
[ 24 ]
Cj-E T^A___IVIDED --q-~I-E O O_- I_
attacked Porto Bello, crossed the Isthmus, and raided up and down the coast
of the Pacific. Captain John Coxon plundered Porto Bello in 1679, and in
the following year crossed the Isthmus to the Pacific in company with Captain
Richard Sawkins, Bartholomew Sharp, Peter Harris and Edmund Cook,
Scene in the village of Chagres at the mouth of the river of that name.
accompanied by over 300 men. They crossed the Isthmus of Darien, guided
by the Indians, in April, 1680, and attacked Santa Maria, an outpost on the
Tuyra River. Not finding the expected gold at Santa Marin, they voyaged
in canoes and in two barks. captured by Captains Sharp and Cook, to Panama.
Arriving off Panama, they were attacked by three Spanish ships near the
island of Perico. In the fight which ensued on April 23, 1680, the English
were victorious, but they failed to attack the city owing to a disagreement
between themselves as to who should be leader, although they stayed in the
vicinity many days picking up prizes. Captain Sawkins was killed later in an
attack on the mining town of Pueblo Nuevo, in the Province of Veraguas.
Captain Coxon had already left with his men to recross the Isthmus to the boats
left on the Atlantic, and Captain Harris died from wounds received in the
battle of Perico, leaving Captains Sharp and Cook to continue their voyages
in the South Sea. Captain Sharp returned to England where he was tried for
piracy, but escaped hanging on account of lack of evidence. From 1680 to 1688,
pirate raids wiped out every settlement on the Pacific coast of Darien. In 1688,
England became the ally of Spain, and the pirates ceased operations for the
War broke out between England and Spain in 1738, and in 1739 Porto
Bello was again captu red and destroyed by Admiral Edw;ard Vernon of the
British Navy. In 1740, Vernon captured Fort San Lorenzo, and in 1742, he
again took Porto Bello and prepared an assault on the new city of Panama
against which a fleet was going around the Horn under conlnni dl of Captain
Anson. However, Vernon's men began to fall sick, so he gave up the attempt
[ 25 ]
*?: \cr .
The tower is the most important remaining evidence of the greatness of the first city of
Panama, destroyed by Morgan in 1671. It is located about six miles southeast of Panama City.
The wealth of Peru was transported over the old masonry bridges centuries ago.
[ 26 ]
- r f
A :^v r ,-: .jh
T 1D JVIDED 1<-TE _W OJ UNITED
on Panama and went to Cartagena instead, at which place he met with a decisive
defeat. Anson learning of this event, left to attack Manila and the new city of
Panama was again saved.
The last of the Spanish galleons from Peru during the latter part of 17;:i
Pile of cannonballs at Fort San Lorenzo, used by the early Spaniards in resisting
the attacks of the buccaneers.
found upon its arrival at Panalma that Porto Bello was being attacked by
Admiral Vernon, so it returned to Guayaquuil and sent its treasure to Cartageia;
over the trail from Quito to Bogoai. Thus the commerce of the Spanish
galleons across the Isthliius ceased, anr l the gradual decay of the towns on the
Isthmus wherein lived the merchants and traders set in.
"Froinm acked Porto Bello redhanded they came,
All bloodstalined( from conquest unworthy the name,
To the mouth of the Clagre.,. where, high on the hill,
San Lorenzo kept gu ar(d, to plunder and kill
Its devoted defenders, who courageously fought
For homes, wives and children, accounting as naught
Their lives held so precious, so cherished before,
Could they drive the fierce pirates away from their shore.
Three days they repulsed them, but to find every night
The foe still upon them in ne'er-ending fight.
Their arms could not con(quer the powers of hell!
San Lorenzo surrendered-ingloriously fell!
Burned, famished and bleeding from many a woundl.
They lay while their stronghold was razed to the ground."
t b .
HE project of con necting the Atlantic with the Pacific has attracted the
attention of the civilized world since the discovery of the Isthmus.
In the years 1534 to 1536, studies were made under the direction of
the then governor of Panamua, Pascual Andagoya, in compliance with
a royal decree, dated February 20, 1534, for a ship canal across the Isthmus by
cutting from the Chagres River to the headwaters of the Rio Grande, but the
idea was abandoned on account of the excessive cost.
With a revival of interest in the subject, many routes were suggested and
many surveys were made at different points where the width of the American
Isthmus was found to be favorable, or where rivers and lakes were found that
might be utilized as a possible passageway. Of the many routes proposed, it
has been found that the one across Nicaragua, utilizing the San Juan River and
Lake Nicaragui, and that at Panama along the line of the Panama railroad,
utilizing the valley of the Chagres River and the Rio Grande, are the only
practicable ones. Of the others, those which gained the most attention and
which were given the most study were across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, in
Mexico, and three in Panama, the Darien, or Atrato River, the San Blas, and
the Calidonia Bay routes.
The Tehuantepec route, where the Spaniards under Cortez, after the
conquest of Mexico, built a road across the Isthmus, is the best location, geo-
graphically, for a canal, it being so much closer to the Pacific and Gulf ports of
the United States, while the distance from New York is practically the same as
from Panama. However, the summit level at this point was found to be in the
neighborhood of 700 feet and very broad, and it is doubtful if a sufficient supply
of water could be obtained for it even if it could be materially lowered by exca-
vation. When the French were at work on the Panama project, Captain James
B. Eads selected this place for the location of a ship railway with large cars to
transport ships from one ocean to the other. This never got beyond the
"scheme" hIlige, although at that time it was considered practicable by engineers.
CR___,,__,DIVIDED ---.7m -,L0 t. UTNTED
There is now an ordinary standard-gage railroad engaged at this point in
carrying transcontinental freight.
ATRATO RIVER AND TRIBUTARIES
Various projects have been proposed to utilize the Atrato river, which flows
almost directly north about 200 miles into the Gulf of Darien, at the point where
the Isthmus joins the continent of South America, and several of its tributaries,
which approach the Pacific coast very closely. There is an Indian legend that
canoes can be carried for a short distance from the headwaters of the Atrato to
another river flowing into the Pacific. The Atrato is a silt-bearing river and has
a considerable fall, and is not in itself adapted to the use of ocean-going ships.
It would necessitate continual dredging for a hundred miles to canalize it, and a
cut through the continental divide much greater than the Cut at Culebra. The
streams flowing into the Pacific are little more than mountain torrents. On
this account this route has not been considered with as much favor as the more
northerly ones. There is a widely circulated story that King Philip III, in the
period 1616 to 1619, issued an edict at the request of Pere Acosta forbidding
further consideration of the project on the ground that the will of God was made
manifest by the fact that He had created an isthmus instead of a strait, and that
it would be impiety for man to put asunder what God had joined. Probably
a more reasonable objection was that a ship canal would make the Spanish
colonies too easily accessible to their enemies. The policy of King Philip was
adhered to for over 200 years after his death in 1698.
The Calidonia route is where Balboa crossed to the Pacific in 1513, and is
the one which William Patterson chose in 1698 for a line of transit across the
Isthmus to control the trade of the Pacific with the east. This route starts
from Calidonia Bay on the Atlantic where Patterson's colony of New Edinburgh
was located, to San Miguel Bay on the Pacific. At first this appears to be an
ideal location for a ship canal on account of the short distance, 35 miles, between
the two oceans. It was advocated by Dr. Edward Cullen of Dublin in 1850.
He claimed that the summit level on this line was not over 150 feet. It was
partly explored by Mr. Lionel Grisborne, an English engineer, in 1852, and he
reaffirmed the claim of Dr. Cullen. Later explorations, among them those of
Lieutenant Isaac G. Strain, U. S. N., in 1854, and by the United States Darien
expedition in 1870, failed to confirm this low altitude. It was found that the
summit level is at least 1,000 feet above the sea. Although the Isthmus is very
narrow at this point, the excavation required is so great that it was proposed to
build a tunnel 4.2 miles long through the mountains through which ships might
pass. This project has long been considered impossible.
The San Bias route from the Gulf of San Bias to the Bayano River, which
flows into the Pacific about 15 miles from the Pacific entrance of the present
canal, is across the narrowest part of the Isthmus, the distance being about 30
miles from shore to shore. The distance from the Atlantic tidewater to tide-
water in the Bayano River is about two-thirds of that distance. This route was
explored under the direction of Mr. Frederick M. Kelley in 1857, and subse-
quently by an expedition under Commander Thomas Oliver Selfridge, Jr.,
, n I A -P DIVIDED --D _P T _LTNJTEP
U. S. N., in 1870. The difficulty here, as on the Calidonia route, lies in the
height of the summit, to cross which tunnels from eight to ten miles long were
The result of all these explorations and surveys resulted in the conviction
that no other route compared in practicability with that of Panama and Nica-
This route, utilizing Lake Nicaragua and the San Juan River, which flows
out of it into the Atlantic, was used as an isthmian transit by the Spaniards as
early as 1529. It became the subject of investigation as a possible Canal route
in 1825, when the newly federated state of Central America advised the United
States that it would encourage any such project by Americans. Several
surveys were made, but no construction work was attempted. In 1850-1852
an Amnricaii, O. W. Childs, organized a company under an agreement with
Nicaragua, and established a transit route, partly by water and partly by stage
road. This transit company also made isrve\ys for a ship canal along this route.
It forfeited its concession in 1858 without doing any work on the proposed canal.
Later surveys were made by the United States under Commander E. P. Lull,
and in 1889 canal construction was begun when the Maritime Canal Company
of Nicaragua, composed of Americans, was formed under a concession from
Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Financial difficulties, however, stopped the work
and the company failed in 1893. For some years after efforts were made to
induce the United States Government to finance the project, with the result
that, in 1893, Congre,% provided for a board of engineers to ascertain the
feasibility and cost of a canal at this point. This board, appointed by President
Cleveland, consisted of Colonel William Ludlow, U. S. A., Civil Engineer M.
Swinging bridge, Chame.
[ 30 ]
S_.DIVIDED-- -- _WOIJD, ITED
T. Endicott, U. S. N., and Civil Engineer Alfred Noble. They reported that
the Canal was feasible, but recommended further surveys and investigations.
Accordingly a commission was appointed by President McKinley, which con-
sisted of Rear Admiral J. G. Walker, Colonel Peter C. Hains, and Lewis M.
Haupt. Before the work of this commission was completed Congress provided,
in 1899, for increasing it for the purpose of making surveys, comparisons and a
thorough examination of all possible routes from Tehuantepec to the Atrato
River. The Commission, which became known as the Isthmian Canal
Commission, was now reinforced by the appointment of Colonel O. H. Ernst,
Alfred Noble, Geo. S. Morrison, and William H. Burr, engineers, and Professor
Emory R. Johnson and Samuel Pasco as experts, respectively, on the com-
mercial and political aspects of the problem. Explorations were made of the
entire Isthmus, but no favorable route was found other than that at Nicaraglua
and that at Panama. The Commission reported on November 16, 1901, in
favor of the construction of a canal across Nicaragua, provided the property of
the New French Canal Company on the Isthmus of Panamai could not be
purchased for $40,000,000, nearly one-third of the price asked.
The total length of the canal proposed at Nicaragua was about 187 miles, 47
miles of which was in deep water in Lake Nicanragun, 17 miles in the river not
requiring improvement, leaving 121 miles of river to be cIanalized. It was to
have nine locks. The difficulties which would have to be overcome are about
the same as at Panama. However, the longer distance at Nicaragua and the
proximity to active volcanoes made it less desirable than the Panama route.
The latter was more advantageous because of the Panama railroad and the
extensive plant and work of the French.
The Panama Canal project, like the others, was the subject of many
studies and surveys, the first, as stated above, being made in 1534. None of
the surveys however were thorough prior to the one made by the Isthmian Canal
Commission in 1890. Simon Bolivar, in 1827, caused a survey to be made of
the route by an English surveyor, and in 1835 the United States sent Charles
Biddle to investigate possible water or railroad routes across the Isthmus.
He obtained a concession from New Granada (Colombia) for a railroad, but
nothing further was done at that time. A few ye rs later, 1838, a company of
Frenchmen obtained a similar concession, and a report that a summit pass of
37 feet above sea level caused the French Government to send out Napoleon
Garella to make a survey which corrected this error. He recommended a lock
canal with a summit level of about 160 feet above sea level, a tunnel of 3S miles
through the divide, and 18 locks to make the required lift. It was not until
May, 1876, that the Government of Colombia gave to the French Canal Com-
pany the concession under which the first cnal work was done, although the
Panama railroad was built in 1850-5, and other surveys had been made under
the direction of the United States Government in 1854 and 1866. While the
French were at work on the Canal many studies were made of the project by
officers of the United States Navy.
I 31 1
'ROM 1750 to 1849, trade across the Isthmus was at a standstill, and
the old pack trails from Porto Bello and from Cruces on the Chagres
became nearly obliterated through disuse. Spain's belated change of
policy, the granting of free trade to the colonies, came too late to be
of much benefit to Panama. A few ships discharged their cargoes at the mouth
of the Chagres for transportation over the Cruces trail, but there were no ade-
quate facilities for handling any great amount of trade had there been any.
What little trade there was went around Cape Horn or via the Cape of Good
Hope. The Isthmus became a place of so little importance that it was reduced
from a viceregency in 1718, when it became a province of New Granada (the
old name for Colombia). It obtained its independence from Spain on Sep-
tember 26, 1821.
In 1849, however, the Isthmus again came to life with the steady flow of
emigrants bound for California, where gold had been discovered during the
previous year. California and Oregon had also been thrown open to settle-
ment, and the Isthmian transit became almost a necessity, for the only other
means of communication with those states were the long overland journey by
wagon train across the American continent, and the long voyage around South
America. Thus the Isthmus as a trade route again came to the front.
The advantages of an Isthmian railroad as a means of developing the trade
of the United States with the growing republics of Central and South America
was realized as early as 1835, when President Andrew Jackson appointed Mr.
Charles Biddle as a commissioner to visit the different routes best adapted for
interoceanic communication by rail or by water between the two oceans. Mr.
Biddle visited the Isthmus, went to Bogota, and obtained from the Government
of New Granada a concession for constructing a railroad across the American
Isthmus. He returned to the United States in 1837 with this document, but
died before he was able to prepare a report, so nothing further was done at
that time. In 1847, a French syndicate, headed by Mateo Kline obtained a
.niiiiihar cnmcll( ion, but was unable to raise the money necessary to carry out the
work. In December, 1848, three far-sighted Americans, William H. Aspinwall,
Henry Chalmccy, and John L. Stephens, entered into a contract with New
[ 32 ]
1HE 6 .pDrIVIDED ~-ZtIE WOI`S-1, UNITED
Granada to build the road, and the Panama Railroad Company, with a capital-
ization of $1,000,000, was incorporated under a charter granted in the state of
New York. Aspinwall, in the same year, obtained from CiongreS a contract
for carrying United States mail by steamer from Panama to California and
Oregon, as a part of his railroad scheme. A similar mail contract authorized
by Congress on the Atlantic side, New York and New Orleans to Chagrcs,
was obtained at the same time by Mr. George Law.
As soon as the concession was obtained from New Granada, Mr. Stephens,
accompanied by Mr. J. L. Baldwin, an engineer, went over the proposed route
for the road and, finding a summit pass of a little less than 300 feet, decided that
High trestle for embankment fill. The new line was built on a 95-foot level and across the
lowlands of the Gatun Lake region a number of long and high trestles for embankment fills, some
of them 90 feet high, had to be built.
E TI- n DIVIDE D --E _Ocr _WP T SUITED
it was feasible. In the early part of 1849, a party of engineers in charge of
Colonel G. H. Hughes of the United States Topographical Corps, was sent to
locate the line. Finding a summit ridge of 287 feet, a line was laid out not
exceeding 50 miles in length from ocean to ocean, with the Atlantic terminus
on Navy Bay, as Limon Bay was formerly called, and with the Pacific terminus
in Panama City.
A contract was then entered into with two experienced contractors, Colonel
Geo. MI. Totten and John C. Trautwine, for the construction of the line.
These men decided upon Gorgotii, on the Chugres river, 31 miles from Colon,
as the base of operations toward Panaina. thinking that material could be easily
landed there by boat. However, the river was so low in the dry season and so
swift in the rainy season that light draft steamers were found out of the question
Loading dirt train for trestle fill.
for the transportation of railroad material. At the same time the increasing
rush to the California gold fields by way of the Isthmus, made river transporta-
tion and the cost of labor prohibitive, and the contractors begged the company
to release them from their obligation. This the company did, and, deciding
to undertake the construction work itself, retained Messrs. Totten and Traut-
wine in its wcr'ice.
FIRST WORK ON THE PANAMA RAILROAD
Clearing on Manzanillo Island began in May, 1850. This was a low
swampy plot of land of about 600 acres separated from the mainland by a
narrow arm of the w(.a. and is the site of the present city of Colon. Although
clcariing had been made, residence upon the island was impossible and for the
[ 34 ]
C~jIE aDN-1 DIVIDED --S-Ti O~?D R jTED
first few months the men engaged in making the surveys, and the laborers
brought from Cartagena, Colombia, were obliged to live on board an old brig
anchored in the bay. When this became overcrow'dled, as additions were made
to the force, it was supplemented by the hull of a condemned steamboat. The
village of Aspinwall was founded on February 2, 1852, but on account of
Colombia's refusal to recognize the name, it was later rechristened Colon, in
honor of Columbus.
The first seven miles of the road was through an extensive swamp, covered
with jungle, and the surveyors were compelled to work in water and slime up
to their waists. In a short time the entire force suffered with malarial fever, and
great difficulty was experienced in obtaining sufficient laborers. Irishmen
were brought from the United States, negros from Jamaica, and natives from
the adjacent tropical countries, and fever made inroads on all of them. The
importation of Chinese coolies was tried, and nearly 1,000 of that race were
Scene on the Panama railroad, near El Diablo, Ancon Hill in the distance.
Corozal-Ancon wagon road on the left.
brought from China. Native hill rice, tea, and opium were supplied them,
but within a few weeks disease broke out among them, and, many becoming
melancholy, are said to have committed suicide, so that inside of 60 days scarcely
200 able-bodied remained. The high mortality of these Chinese laborers,
probably helped develop the story that each of the ties on the original Panama
railroad represented the life of a laborer. The facts in the case make the story
ridiculous. There were at least 150,000 cro-,s-ties in the original road, including
sidings and yards, while the largest number of emploves at any one time was
not over 7,000, and the road was completed in four years. According to the
most authentic records, the total mortality during the construction period was
about 1, 00. Added to the difficulties of maintaining a labor force, was the
necessity of bringing nearly all food and supplies from New York, a distance
of nearly 2,000 miles.
By the first of October, 1851, the track had been laid as far as Gatun, and
[ 35 ]
HE JAN-D 2DIVI DE D cHE P OI[D, UNITED
The largest railroad bridge on the new line, spanning the Chagres River at Gamboa. It is 1,320
feet long. The Chagres River empties into the Canal at this point.
in the following month, 1,000 ,passngers were carried to that station from
Colon. These passengers had arrived at Chagres for the California transit in
two ships, but could not be landed there on account of a heavy storm, and were
disembarked at Colon. This happened most opportunely for the railroad, as
the original million dollars had been expended and things were beginning to
look dark to the stockholders. When the news reached New York that
passengers had been carried as far as Gatun, seven miles by rail, even though
they had been carried on flat cars, the company's stock immediately rose in
price. The work was pushed on with renewed vigor, for, from this time on,
there was a small and steady income which could be applied to the construction
expense. In July, 1852, the road had reached Barbacoas, a total distance of
23 miles, where it was necessary to construct a bridge 300 feet long to span the
On October 10, Mr. John L. Stephens, who was president of the company,
died in New York, and his successor, Mr. W. C. Young, decided to have the
remainder of the work accomplished by contract. The contractor, however,
failed to fulfill his obligation and after a year's delay, the company again decided
to do the work.
COMPLETION OF THE ENTERPRISE
On the 27th of January, 1855, at midnight and in rain, the last rail to the
summit ridge at Culebra, 37 miles from Colon and 11 miles from Panama, was
laid, and in the meantime, work had been advancing steadily from Panama
city, to which point material had been transported around Cape Horn. On
the following day, the first locomotive passed from ocean to ocean, nearly four
years after ground was first broken. The completed road was 47 miles 3.020
feet ,ng, with a maximum grade of 60 feet to the mile, in order to surmount the
summit ridge at elevation 287 feet. The first president was Mr. David Hoadley.
[ 36 ]
cE AMD DIVIDEDD C ---OTgE ^UT
Although track had been laid from ocean to ocean, the railroad was in poor
physical condition, and it was not until 1859 that its construction account was
finally closed, at a total expenditure up to that time of $8,000,000. The road
was properly ballated, heavier rails were laid, using hardwood ties, bridges of
iron replaced flimsy wooden structures, and station buildings and wharves were
erected. To cross waterways, 170 bridges and culverts had been built and the
wooden bridge at Barbacoas was replaced by one of iron.
The road was a paying investment from the time when the first 11 miles were
opened in 1832, for, as new sections were built they were put into immediate ser-
vice for passengers and freight, and at the end of 1855, the year the entire r, ,ad was
opened, its income from passengers and freight was $W,1~5,232.31. When the
original construction account was closed in January, 1859, the gross earnings
amounted to $8,146,605.00, while operating expenses, together with deprecia-
tion amounted to $2,174,876.51, leaving a balance of $5,971,728.66, as legitimate
earnings for a period of seven years, during the last four of which the road was
open throughout its entire length. Dividends have been paid every year on the
stock, with the exception of a few years previous to the taking over of the road
from the French Canal Company by the United States. The average dividend
during the years 1852-1881 was 16 per cent., and since that period, five per cent;
the smallest dividend was two per cent. in 1885, and the largest 44 per cent. in
1868. In 1865, the capital stock was increased from $5,000,000 to $7,000,000.
In 1881, the year when the road was sold to the Frenchl Canal Company, a
The station of the Panama Railroad at Panama City always presents an active scene at train
time. A new first class station has taken the place of the old one shown here. All passenger
locomotives are oil-burning and the coaches are thoroughly up-to-date, having first and second
class accommodations. The tunnel at Miraflores is 736 feet long.
[ 37 1
CjT A TAI IVI D ED q-i E W QOJCUP T1T7ITED
dividend of 521 per cent. was declared, but this not only represented the earnings
for that year, but also included the assets and surplus on hand at that time.
EARLY RATES NEARLY PROHIBITIVE
The following table of rates, placed in effect when the road was first opened
in 1855, remained in force for 20 years, and following the company's policy,
wee( intended to be prohibitive at first, on the theory that they would be lowered
when the company had had an opportunity to improve its line, will explain in a
measure the large profits made on this road which cost about $170,000 a mile
Fare, Panama to Colon, Ist-class.
Fare, Panillma to Colon, 2d-class.
Charge for baggage...... .....
Freight rate, Ist-class ..........
Freight rate, id-class...........
Freight rate, 3d-class...........
.10 per lb.
3.00 per cwt.
2.00 per cwt.
1.00 per cwt.
.02 per lb. .02 per lb.
.40 per c.u. ft. .50 per cwt.
1.20 per cwt. .44 per cwt.
.80 per cwt. .32 per cwt.
At the present time the first-class passenger fare is $Q.40, with 150 pounds of
baggage free; second-class, half of that rate.
ESTABLISHMENT OF STEAMSHIP SERVICE
In 1856, the company established a steamship service between Panama
and San Jose de Guatemala, thus opening up the rich coffee country of Central
:,...---:-' ':;^-. ^^ .... ^
-.- --~ -" ,
The Panama Railroad operates a steamship service with a fleet of six vessels plying between
New York and Colon, two of which were purchased in 1908 for the carrying of cement. This
is the Panama, one of the passenger steamers.
[ 38 1
i~~~ir7HE~~~iiii~~~~iii l)A~ 6c D
DIVIDED ---- CH E WORLRD, TIJITED
America. This line continued until October, 1872, when it was taken over bv
the Pacific Mail Steamship Company. At one time the road had a line of its
own between San Francisco and Panama, but this was withdrawn in 1902. In
1893, the present Panama Railroad Steamship Line was established between
New York and Colon, and there are now six ships in this service, the Ancon,
Cristobal, Panama, Colon, Allianca and Advance, although the two former
vessels purchased in 1908 are owned by the Canal Commission, and have been
used mainly in transporting cement to the Isthmus.
CONCESSIONARY RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES
The terms of the original concession granted by the Government of New
Granada provided, among other things, the exclusive privilege of building a
railroad on the Isthmus of Panama; that no undertaking for the opening of a
canal to connect the two o(cans would be permitted without the consent of the
railroad company; that the railroad company should have the exclusive privilege
of building wagon roads across the Isthmus and the use of the Chagres for
steamer travel, and the exclusive privilege of the use of the ports at the two
termini for the anchorage of vessels, and for the loading and unloading of cargo.
This concession was to remain in force 49 years from the day of the road's
completion, subject to the right of New Granada to take possession at the
expiration of 20 years upon the payment of $5,000,000, or at the expiration of
40 years upon the payment of $2,000,000. The provisions of the contract were
modified several times, but its exclusive features remained practically the same.
In 1867, it was renewed for 99 yea rs on payment of $1,000,000 in cash, and an
annual payment of $250,000 guaranteed to New Granada. The railroad also
obligated itself to extend the road to the islands in the bay of Panama. This
extension of the contract for 99 years was secured 12 years after the opening of
the road by Colonel Totten, when it was realized that New Granada would
surely raise the necessary $5,000,000 to obtain the road after 20 years of opera-
tion, a road costing $8,000,000 to build and, at that time paying 24 per cent on a
capitalization of $7,000,000.
Two years later, 1869, the Union Pacific was completed across the
American continent, with a consequent decline of California trade across the
Isthmus. The loss of this trade would have been offset by the trade of Central
and South America, had the company seized the opportunity, but its policy,
apparently, was to make all it could there and then let the future take care
of itself. In 1868, the Pacific Steam Navigation Company withdrew its line of
steamers from the Isthmiian transit, and sent its ships to Englanl via the Strait
of Magellan, and transferred its repair shops and coaling station from the island
of Taboga to Callao, Peru. It was forced to do this by the shortsighted policy
of the railroad's (directrs who refused to ratify a traffic agreement profitable
to both, which had been tentatively drawn up, giving the company where
freight originated the right to make a through chlarge to be divided equally
between the three carriers, the railroad and the steamship lines on either side
of the Isthmus. The steamship company took most of its trade with it and an
idea of what was lost to the railroad can be obtained from the fact that, in 1874,
it had .54 steamers, with a total of 124,000 tons, in operation between Valparaiso
and Liverpool. Only its smaller boats were sent to Panama, and tllee mierel
to act as feeders to the main line on their return south. This policy of offering
no encouragement to steamship line. also forced the Panama, New Zealand
The headquarters of the Panama Railroad are located at Colon. The new line runs on the east side
of the canal and is 47.11 miles long. It was completed on May 25, 1912, at a cost of $8,984,922.18.
[ 40 ]
and Australian Steamship Company to give up its attempt to inaugurate a
monthly service via Wellington to Sydney, connecting with the Royal Mail
Steam Packet Company, operating between Southampton and Colon.
In spite of this policy of taking more than the trade could stand, the railroad
continued to pay dividends, but it would undoubtedly have done a much more
profitable business had it endeavored to help, instead of oppressing the growing
trade of Central and South America.
CHANGES IN OWNEIllHIP
When the French operations were begun in 1881, the French Canal
Company found that in order to build a canal it would first have to gain the
consent of the railroad or to purchase it. The latter plan was followed, and in
June of that year, 68,888 of the 70,000 shares were obtained for a little over
$20,000,000 or two and one-half times what the road had originally cost to
build. In addition to the amount expended for shares, bonuses paidl brought
the total cost to a little over $25,000,000. When the United States, on May 4,
1904, took over the affairs of the New French Canal Company, they came into
possession of these shares, and obtained the remainder, 1,112 shares, by private
purchase at a cost of $157,118.24, or an average price of $140.00 per share.
The entire stock of the Panama Railroad and Steamship Company is now
owned by the United States, with the exception of one share transferred to each
of the directors to enable them to qualify under the articles of incorporation.
The Chairman and Chief Engineer of the Isthmian Canal Commission is also
President of the Panama Railroad Company.
Since it has become a government-owned corporation, the road has bec',ome
secondary to the Canal work, although it is still a common carrier, and carries
The railroad station at Gatun, which is the only station of a permanent type so far
constructed, except at Colon and Panama City.
I 41 ]
cmE bv- DIVIDED --c-E WO-D Ja UNITED
Old Washington Hotel, showing statue of the Panama Railroad founders, Henry Chauncey, Wm.
H. Aspinwall and John L. Stephens. A new modern hotel has taken the place of the old one.
about 70,000 tons of commercial freight a month, which is about one-half of the
total amount, the balance being handled for the company and for the Canal
When the road was turned over by the French it was found to be in a
neglected condition, with obsolete equipment and rolling stock. Since that
time terminal wharves, equipped with modern cargo cranes, have been con-
structed, terminal yards, warehouses and machine shops provided, new and
powerful locomotives, 12 of which are oil burners, larger cars for passengers
and freight put into service, heavier rails laid, bridges strengthened to enable
them to carry the heavier equipment, and the whole line double-tracked.
Permanent reinforced concrete stations have been built at Colon, Gatun and
Panama, and a modern concrete hotel, the Washington, costing upwards of
$650,000 has been constructed on Colon beach.
THE NEW MAIN LINE
The relocated, or new main line of the railroad runs on the east side of the
canal for its entire length of 47.11 miles. From Colon to Mindi, 4.17 miles,
and from Corozal to Panama, the old location was used, but the remaining
40 miles are new road. From Gatun, the line skirts the north shore of the lake
for about four miles, and then turns south, crossing the eastern arm of the lake
on a high trestle fill at an elevation of 95 feet above sea level. Near Caimito,
the road approaches the canal again, and parallels it to Gamboa. Originally,
it was planned to carry the road through Culebra Cut on a 40-foot berm, 10 feet
above the water level, but slides caused the abandonment of the project, and it
was built on a high level around Gold Hill instead. Its highest point is 271
r 42 1
j _) DIVIDEDD ---- EJO_ DUTTN,,TED
feet above sea level near LaPita, and where the continental divide is crossed,
opposite Culebra, the height is 241 feet. From the south end of Culebra Cut
at Paraiso, the railroad runs practically parallel with the canal to Panama.
Where the road crosses the Gatun River, near Monte Lirio, a steel girder bridge
with a lift span has been erected to permit native sailing craft to pass into the
east arm of the lake. and at Gamboa, the Chagres River is crossed with a steel
girder bridge one-quarter of a mile long. At Miraflores, the road passes through
a tunnel 736 feet long.
The new line was completed on May 25, 1912, at a cost of $8,984,922.18,
but passenger trains were not run over it for its entire length until September 2,
1913, when the former crossing at Gamboa dike was abandoned on account of
the rise of Gatun Lake. On that date a new schedule was placed in effect,
whereby the main line trains run all the way from Colon to Panama on the east
side of the canal, and the towns on the west bank are served with a shuttle train
service from Panama to Bas Obispo, the present terminus of the old double-
track line. The shuttle trains now cross the canal, near Paraiso on a trestle
bridge, but as this will have to be removed to permit the navigation of the canal,
a wooden pontoon bridge will be built in the same locality of sufficient width for
a single track and a roadway for vehicles. This is not intended for a permanent
crossing but only to such time as the villages on the west bank of the canal can
be abandoned. South of Corozal, a change will be made in the road which will
have the effect of placing the new town of Balboa on the main line, with its
terminus at Panama as at present. The railroad possesses modern passenger
terminals at both ends. The one in Colon is of concrete block construction,
and was opened on July 23, 1909. It is not particularly attractive from an
architectural standpoint. The new station in Panama, costing about $100,000,
was completed in the latter part of 1913. The-only other station of a permanent
type so far constructed is at Gatun, built in 1909.
The new Hotel Washington at Colon. Cost about $500,000.
Operated by the Panama Railroad.
[ 43 )
CrHLNDJIVI DE D --CJ11E, WSJ5ll~~lP~~l U~ NJTIIIEDZ
The total mileage of the road, exclusive of sidings, is 58.79, as follows:
Main line, 47.11 miles; Pedro Miguel to Bas Obispo, 9.12 miles, and Panama
to Balboa 2.56 miles.
BUSIEST SHORT LINE IN THE WORLD
During the years 1911-1912 the road carried 777,121 first-class passengers,
and 1,980,550 second-class pascenigers, an increase of over 300,000 for the year.
During the fiscal year just closed, the pa,,enger traffic is expected to show
material increase due in part to the increased tourist travel. Freight amounting
to 1,871,076 tons was transported over the railroad during 1911-1912, divided
Throutgli common ercial freight ....................
Local and I. C. C. freight.............. ........
Local commercial freight ........... ............ .
Panama Railroad Company's freight ...............
The net revenue from its operation was $1,997,280.80. The steamship
line, on the other hand, has not paid as an investment, except as a feeder for the
railroad, and for the benefit of the Isthmian Canal Commission. It has had a
steady freight and passenger traffic, but the cargoes have consisted principally
of canal supplies, and the pa;.sengers have been mostly employes of the Canal
Commission and railroad, who are carried at a reduced rate. The net deficit
from the operation of the steamship line for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1912,
With the completion of the canal it is possible that the road will be electri-
fied, obtaining the necessary power from the hydroelectric plant at Gatun spill-
way, and will be devoted almost entirely to local traffic. This traffic will, no
doubt, be consideralble, for Colon and Panama will always be important cities.
K ii t"I
New Panama railroad passenger terminal in Panama, just completed.
[ 44 ]
HE French attempt to construct a waterway across the Isthmus was
foredoomed to failure because the project fell into the hands of
promoters and speculators. A contributory cause was the very high
sick and death rate among the French employes on the Isthmus. This
added greatly to the cost of administration and resulted in an unstable labor
force. Many of the best engineers left the Isthmus after short service, or died,
and these constant changes made it difficult to pursue any regular plan to keep
up an effective organization to carry on the work. The company had to pay
high wages and offer special inducements to perluale men to take the chance of
one in five of surviving an attack of yellow fever which they were liable to
contract. Had the work been in charge of a rich and powerful government,
public opinion would not have allowed the work to have been carried on at such
an appalling cost of life. When the enterprise was started the method of
transmission of malaria and yellow fever was unknown, and, even if the French
had taken the sanitary precautions prevailing at that time, they could not have
stamped out these two fevers which gave the Isthmus the reputation of being
the most unhealthy place in the world for a white man. As a private corpora-
tion, it could not enforce sanitary regulations had it desired to do so, for, unlike
the United States, it did not acquire absolute jurisdiction over the Canal strip,
but was at the mercy of the Colombian courts.
Other causes were extravagance, which naturally developed into graft,
for the supply of money which came flowing into the coffers of the company
from eager investors beguiled by the name of De Lesseps seemed inexhaustible;
the lack of suitable machinery, the want of preparation, and misguided leader-
ship. All these mistakes have served as warning signals to the Canal Com-
mission, so that the failure of the French has contributed, in a large measure, to
the success of the Americans.
The first French Canal Company, La Societe International du Canal
Interoceanique, inaugurated the undertaking with an exclusive concession from
Colombia, but with an incomplete isrvey of the proposed work, and an esti-
mate of cost and time placed much too low. The necessary money was
[ 45 ]
DIVIDED 0 ---HE WORDA, UNITED
Count Ferdinand de Lesseps. His name will
always be linked with the great enterprise
as it was under his direction and control
that the work first took definite form.
obtained from the French middle
cla;ies, who were induced to part with
their savings through the magic name of
Ferdinand de Lesseps, who had just
brought to a successful close his great
work at Suez, and who was placed at the
head of the new enterprise. De Lesseps
was honest and sincere, but he was an
old man, somewhat blinded by his pre-
vious good fortune, and, therefore,
easily deluded. He was enthusiastic
over the idea of a canal connecting the
Atlantic with the Pacific, and made
himself and others believe that the work
could be accomplished more quickly
and much easier than the Suez. His
ability as a missionary made him valu-
able to the promoters, for the difficulties
of the work across the Isthmus, as com-
pared with the work at Suez should
have been apparent even to the layman.
He was not an expert engineer; it did
not require any engineering ability, but
merely imagination, to see the practica-
bility of cutting a sea level channel
through the low desert region of upper
Egypt, while at Panama, a hilly and
Former headquarters of De Lesseps, Cristobal, now used by the Canal Commission.
I- ~--1---- `- ----v U"--~--~
E AN- DIVIDED --gq "M WOXIDVO IUNTED
rock country had to be traversed, torrential streams diverted, and a tidal basin
constructed, problems which the world's foremost engineers have differed in
the solution. And yet De Lesseps sincerely believed that he was to achieve a
second triumph, and much easier than his first. (The Suez Canal was opened
in 1869, took ten years to build, and cost about $100,000,000, or a million
dollars a mile. This low cost was due to the fact that the cut was made through
a stretch of level sand, and Said Pasha, the Khedive of Egvpt, a large stock-
holder in the enterprise, practically forced his subjects to work on the project
in much the same manner as Rameses of old).
PROCURING THE CONCESSION
The concession for the privilege of constructing the Canal was obtained
from Colombia in May, 1876, by General Stephen Tiirr, a Hungarian, who had
become acquainted with De Lesseps when the latter was planning his work at
Suez, and who was later incited by the Frenchman's success in an effort to
duplicate the feat at Panama. He organized a provisional company in France
and sent an engineering party to the Isthmus in November, 1876, to make
explorations and surveys. The party was in charge of Lieutenant Napoleon
Bonapart Wyse, of the French Navy, a brother-in-law of General Ttirr, and at
that time only 23 years of age. The first expedition was only partly successful,
several of its members falling victims to disease. Wyse wa.s again sent out in
the spring of 1878 with Lieutenant Armand Reclus, also of the French Navy.
On this trip he obtained a new concession, approved May 18, 1878, in the name
of the association presided over by General Ttirr, which modified and extended
the former one, so as to give the promoters the exclusive privilege of building a
canal across the Isthmus anywhere within the United States of Colombia.
This concession was to remain in force 99 years, provided the necessary per-
mission was obtained from the Ptnama Railroad Coipmlny which held a
The old port of Colon in 1884, during the early French days. This photograph
was taken with a wet plate, a relic of photography.
[ 47 ]
CJB LjAND .DIVIfDED --_H _gOB TJTED
Cristobal street scene in the French days. The scenes of the old French days have changed
with newer ideas. This section is now filled with roomy houses and quarters for the canal
employes and I. C. C. manufacturing plants.
monopoly of the Isthmian route. Work was to be begun not later than 1883,
and was to be completed within 12 years, with an extension of six years in case
the original term proved too short.
Although Wyse went over not more than two-thirds of the distance from
Panama to Colon, he submitted what were supposed to be complete plans and
a statement of cost for a sea level canal between the two points, following the
line of the Panama railroad. These plans and estimates were submitted to an
international engineering congress which was convened in Paris, May 14-29,
1879, in accordance with the terms of the concession, with Ferdinand de
Lesseps at its head. These plans were the basis of a decision by the congress in
favor of a sea level canal, following the route of the Panama railroad, by way
of the pass at Culebra, using the valley of the Chagres river on the Atlantic
side, and the valley of the Rio Grande on the Pacific side of the continental
divide. It is pertinent to note that in this congress, consisting of 136 delegates
from France, Germany, the United States and other countries, only 42 were
engineers, while the remainder were promoters, politicians, speculators, and
pT'rs~'al friends of De Lesseps. The Wyse concession and plans were "shoved
through," approved, and turned over to La Societe International du Canal
Interoceanique, commonly known as the first French Canal Company, for a
considileration of $2,000,000. This was the first "step in the dark," taken by the
DE LESSEPS PLAN.
De Lesseps made two visits to the Isthmus, the first in December, 1879, and
the second in 1886, remaining for about two months on each occasion. On
his first visit he wais accompanied by his wife, three of his children, and an
international technical commission, consisting of nine members. At one of the
The famous flat arch in the ruins of Santo Domingo Church, Panama City. It is an architectural curiosity of the early day Spanish masons and
has withstood the assault of fire and earthquakes. It has a span of over 40 feet, and a rise of two feet, and has stood in the ruins of the old church
for 206 years.
~C"HE Qt- D DIVIDED --TTREVMOrJhDB ITNJTED
numerous receptions and banquets tendered him, he said: "There are only
two great difficulties to be overcome, the Chagres River, and the deep cutting
at the summit. The first can be surmounted by turning the headwaters of the
river into another channel, and the second will disappear before the wells which
will be sunk and charged with explosives of sufficient force to remove vast
quantities at each discharge."
The engineering commission, after a superficial study of the route and
former incomplete surveys, in a report submitted February 14, 1880, estimated
the cost at $168,600,000. The engineering congress estimated the cost at
$214,000,000. On February 20, De Lesseps reduced this estimate to $131,600,-
000, and again on March 1, without apparent reason, to $120,000,000. The
proposed sea level canal was to have a uniform depth of 29.5 feet, a bottom
width of 72 feet, and a width on the water line of about 90 feet, and involved
excavation estimated at 157,000,000 cubic yards. The engineering congress
estimated seven or eight years as the time required to complete the work.
De Lesseps, with his usual optimism, reduced the time to six years. To
control the floods of the Chagres River, various schemes were proposed, the
principal one being the construction of a dam at Gamboa, a little below Cruces,
and the construction of channels to the sea to carry the impounded water away
from the canal. On account of the great difference in the tides of the two
oceans, a maximum of two and one-half feet in the Atlantic and 21 feet in the
Pacific, a tidal basin or lock was to have been built at the Pacific entrance.
(The high tide on the Pacific side is due to the fact that the Bay of Panama is
funnel-shaped). No work was ever accomplished on either of these two
Front Street, Colon, during the flourishing French days, with the pay car
at the old depot.
[ 49 ]
f M M-
THE FIRST WHARF
BALBOA IN THE
A group of views of Balboa and the canal entrance and operations, during the days of both
the First and Second French Companies. The wharf was the first constructed by the French.
The one-sided dump cars shown in the top picture are now obsolete.
cTru TA-P DD ID V Wot V-% V UWTINJTED
projects. A dam at Gamboa was found later to be impracticable, and the
problem of the diversion of the Chagres River was left to some future time.
INAUGURATING THE WORK
On January 1, 1880, the ceremony of breaking the ground was to have
been performed by De Lesseps at the mouth of the Rio Grande, about three
miles west of Panama city. The boat bearing a party of ladies and gentlemen
who were to take part was delayed in starting, with the result that it could not
get within two or three miles of the shore on account of the ebbing tide. This,
however, did-not dampen the ardor of the versatile Frenchman, as the arrival
of the steamer in the entrance of the river mouth was considered by him a
sufficient beginning. The first blow was thereupon struck with a pick in a box
of earth upon the deck of the steamer, while the observers aided their imagina-
Limon Bay in the busy French days.
tion by copious drallghts of chimil)agne. On January 10, 1880, De Lesseps,
with another party of civil and church dignitaries, went to Culebra to witness
the first blast. Accounts differ as to this event. Tracy Robinson, the oldest
American on the Isthmus, states in his book on Panama. that the blast never
came off, and as he was present, he ought to know. On the other hand, the
"Star and Herald" of the day following gives a circin l;m ntial a'ceiiiunt of the
affair, ending with: "The mine had been carefully laid in an exceedingly hard
and compact formation of basalt at a few feet below the summit, and charged
with 30 kilogramin of explosive. The operation was performed with complete
success, and immense amount of solid rock being hurled from its original
position." No photographs of the incident are extant.
Actual excavation work did not commence in Culebra Cut until some time
c IY TAM-D DvDED ----E D HE W'M UNITED
The pick and shovel brigade.
later. "The Bulletin du Canal Interoceanique," published by the company
for the benefit of the stockholders, of February 1, 1882, states: "The first
work in the great cut of the maritime canal was formally inaugurated today
(Jan. 20, 1882), at Empire in the presence of the dignitaries of the state, the
leading citizens of the city and a great assemblage of the people. The first
locomotive has arrived at the newly opened excavation. The city of Panama
is celebrating the event with a great fete."
De Lesseps left Colon for the United States on February 22, 1880, for the
purpose of interesting Americans in the undertaking. Although he was
received with a great deal of enthusiasm everywhere, he was unable to dispose
of the stock which he had thoughtfully reserved. Americans were interested
in a canal, but not in a canal under French control. He then proceeded on a
similar tour of Europe, where he was more successful from a pecuniary point of
view. The first issue of stock, 600,000 shares of $100 each, was subscribed twice
over, mostly taken in France. These shares were distributed among 100,000
persons, indicating the great Frenchman's popularity with the people of his
country. In 1888, when the company failed, the total subscriptions, stocks and
bond issues, had reached $393,505,100, and the shareholders numbered 200,000.
Two years of fc\verihl preparation followed which witnessed the making
of hasty surveys, the bringing together of machinery and a labor force, and the
erection of quarters and hospitals. The actual construction work was let to a
firm of French contractors, Couvreaux & Hersent, but they soon realized the
difficulties of the undertaking and withdrew from the last part of their contract.
FRENCH LABOR FORCE
There seems to have been little difficulty experienced in obtaining a labor
force, which in 1888, numbered about 20,000 men. Nine-tenths of these were
bv-P r, DIVIDED W--< E^ OJID JTITED
negroes from the West Indies, and many of them held clerical and other similar
positions. The white emploves, mainly from France, were treated with
extreme generosity. Economy was an unknown factor in the administration
of affairs of the first company. The average pay of a clerk was $125 per
month, and of a division chief from $200 to $3:iol per month. After two years'
service, five months vacation, with free traveling expenses to and from France,
were granted. The hours of labor for the clerical force was from 8 to 11 a. m.,
and 2 to 5 p. m., six hours a day. Free quarters, furniture, bedding, lamps,
kitchen utensils, etc., were provided. As there was no system of accounting
in vogue, many did quite a profitable busine-, in the buying and selling of the
company's furniture. This was merely one of the petty forms of graft in
vogue, however. Enormous salaries were paid to the directors, engineers, and
other officers on the Isthmus. The director-generals lived in a house that cost
$100,000, now used as the American Legation in P;nanma; City; they received
$50,000 a year, and when they went out on the work they were allowed $50 a
day additional. One of the private cars in which they rode cost $42,000.
LA FOLIE DINGLER
There formerly stood on an artificial terrace on the western slope of Ancon
Hill a building that commanded( ready attention from passersby on the road
from Panama to La Boca, now Balboa. It was the prospective home of M.
Jules Dingier, probably the foremost director-general of the first French com-
pany, prospective, because he never occul)ied it. Work on the mansion was
begun shortly after he came to the Isthmus in February, 1883, and the cost
including the grounds is said to have been about $50,000. For many years
La Folie Dingier, built for M. Julius Dingier in the first French Company's days, but never oc-
cupied by him. The experience of M. Dingler on the Isthmus constitutes one of the saddest
incidents in French canal history. His son, daughter and wife all contracted the dreaded yellow
fever and died.
[ 53 1
TAD PIVIDED c-E ODJ. ITTITED
The village of Empire in the old French days. The French began their first
excavation in the cut near this point in 1882.
it had been called La Folie Dingler, or Dingler's Folly. The experience of
M. Dingier on the Isthmus constitutes, perhaps, one of the saddest incidents
in French canal history. Stories of the fatal effect the climate of the Isthmus
was said to have on foreigners reached France, but Dingier scoffed at these
reports. "I am going to show them," he is credited with having said, "that
only drunkards and the dissipated contract yellow fever and die." In this
spirit he brought with him to the Isthmus, his wife, son, and daughter. His
son, who was made director of posts, shortly fell victim to yellow fever and died.
Dingier subsequently went to France on leave of absence, and upon the return
of himself and family to the Isthmus, his daughter met with the fate of his son.
On his return from a second trip to France, his wife also sickened and died from
the same fell disease. Dingier later relinquished his post and went back to France
a man broken in mind and body. At the time the American Government took
pcce-ion, La Folie Dingier hadl fallen into partial decay. Needed repairs
The French at work in the Canal at Cucaracha, 1885, just around
the point from Gold Hill.
[ 54 ]
EA- J)IVIDED --C- _WO J_- IjTED
Canal between Empire and Culebra, showing the French
method of excavation, in 1888.
were made and for several years the building was utilized as a detention station
for the quarantine service. It was sold in 1910 for $525, and removed to make
way for quarry work on the side of Ancon Hill.
During the period of greatest activity there were probably 2,000 Frenchmen
on the Isthmus, all non-immune to yellow fever. Life was a gamble and, with
no suitable social diversion, they naturally resorted to the only forms of amuse-
ment available, the saloons, gambling rooms, and houses of ill-iepute. Colon
and Panama became the Mecca of the palraites of society, the non-workers who
live on vice, with the result that an efficient labor force could not be kept long
under such conditions, and it %was continually changing.
In the center of the Cut at the end of the first French Company's days, 1889.
The first French Company operated from 1881 to 1889.
[ 55 1
M. k jj.
DIVIDEDD --lrE WPO~-,I6J~DuITIV~ED
4- ft, I W --,;-
Culebra Cut in the earliest times of the second French Company, 1894.
THE SICK POORLY CARED FOR
Two hospitals were built in 1883, which, with additions and alterations
have been in constant use by the Americans. Ancon hospital originally cost
$5,600,000, and Colon hospital cost $1,400,000, a total of $7,000,000.
The hospitals, although fairly well equipped, with excellent doctors and
surgeons and supplied with the best medicines and instruments of the time, were
poorly managed. They were handled under contract, and the administration
Looking South from Culebra in the second French Company's days, 1895.
The second French Company operated from 1894 to 1904.
'-~DIVIDED -- 11
C)E, bP DIVIDE 'VC.O1 oDUNITED
The Cut as it appeared in 1904 when the Americans began the work. Contractor's Hill on
the right; Gold Hill on the left. Note the succession of benches, lying one above the other.
The Americans have followed this same method in excavating.
was left almost entirely to French Sisters of Charity, who, although they were
devoted and religious women, were not trained nurses. These worthy women
left the wards at night after prayer, closing the doors and windows tight to
keep out the night mists, which were supposed to bring malarial fever, leaving
the patients without any other care than that which was given by the less feeble
among themselves. When the wards were opened for morning prayer it was
The valley of the Rio Grande in the French days. The present canal is between the hills.
The old Panama Railroad bridge is shown at the south end of the Cut.
CrI1F LA-DDIVIDE D -~ -CfTIE WOi?4Ma uilTED
often found that some patient had died during the night, who might have been
saved with proper attention. The legs of the hospital beds were placed in tins
of water to keep insects from crawling up. These pans of stagnant water, and
also the many ornamental basins containing flowers and plants in the grounds
outside made ideal breeding places for mosquitoes, and it is quite probable
that many patients fell victim to fever while in the hospital suffering with some
minor illness, due to the unscreened windows and doors.
The Cut in French times, showing their cableway plan of excavation. These cableways
carried the material out of the canal and deposited it to one side, but unfortunately not far enough,
for much of it has slid back into the Cut, causing extra excavation.
The hospital records show that during the construction period of the old
company-1881 to 1889-there were 5,618 deaths, 1,041 of which were from
yellow fever. The old yellow fever ward in Ancon hospital, now ward No. 16,
was called St. Charles, and it is believed that more people died from yellow fever
in it than in any other one building in the world. The West Indian negroes
were immune to yellow fever, and very few of them were admitted to the
hospitals. The victims, therefore, were nearly all white persons, and mostly
Frenchmen. A large proportion of the sick did not enter the hospitals, as the
contractors were charged one dollar a day for skilled medical treatment of
employes. Colonel Gorgas estimates the number of laborers who died from
1881 to 1889 at 22,189, or a rate of something over 240 per thousand per year.
He also estimates that as many died of yellow fever outside the hospitals as in,
and places the total number of deaths from that disease at 2,082. In September
1884, during an attack of yellow fever, the Canal Company lost 654 employes out
of a force of about 18,000. This is in part based on surmise, for the truth was
partly suppressed or minimized by the Canal Company in order not to destroy
the confidence of the people in the project, and outside of the hospital rolls, the
records were incomplete. A virulent form of malaria, known as "Chagres
fever," caused a greater toll in lives than any other one disease. The negro
laborers, although immune from yellow fever, succumbed quickly to attacks
of this form of malaria.
[ 58 ]
CTE TLv-D .
CTIE ?D, J)IVIDED --c ZE WOPID, UNITED
Under the new canal company, the hospitals were turned over to the Sisters
of Charity who took care of the few patients admitted at a fixed charge. As
the revenue from patients was small, they had a hard time to keep them open
at all, and were compelled to sell flowers, fruits, vegetables and other products
from the hospital grounds. When the Americans took cha rge these women
were replaced by trained nurses.
The crash came in December, 1888. At this time $156,654,687.00 had
been expended on the Isthmus, and in Paris, $78,140,330.00, a total of $234,-
795,017.00. This vast sum is said to have been "one-third expended on the
canal work, one-third wasted, and one-third stolen." Of tliat spent at Panama,
salaries and expenses of management aggregated $16,51.0,883; rents and main-
tenance of leased property, $3,301,070; material and supplies, $29,722,856;
buildings, $15,397,282; construction and engineering expenses, $89,434,925;
land purchases, $950,655; and medical and religious attendance, $1,836,768.
In view of the various forms of graft, extravagance and waste, it is not sur-
prising that there was so little to show in actual work accomplished. At the
end of eight years the work was about two-fifths completed.
A French excavator opening a pioneer trench in the south end of the Cut. This was the
best known method of excavating in that day.
The work was let to contractors, very few of whom faithfully performed
the service for which they were paid. Many made small fortunes. Those
who were intrusted with the work of excavation were paid for the amount of
spoil which they took from the canal prism. As there was no data available
on the cost of such work, it was impossible to even estimate what the charge
should be. In many cases the contractors took out what was most easily
excavated, avoiding the hard spots. One notable exception to this was the
dredging work done by the American Dredging and Contracting Company,
which dredged the opening of the Canal from Colon to beyond Gatun.
I 59 1
First French Company's days. Dredges working in the canal at Mindi.
Two French ladder dredges working on the Chagres River, opposite Gorgona 20 years ago.
The French suction dredges with the carrying pipes, were effective in excavating, but like
their cableways, did not carry the spoil far enough.
[ 60 1
Much worthless material was shipped to the Isthmus, due to ill ad vised
buying, the French manufacturers undoubtedly in many instances cleaning
house to their profit at the expense of the Canal stockholders. When the
Americans took over the property they found torch lights in one storehouse
apparently brought to the Isthmus to be used in the celebration of the opening
of the Canal. At another time a lot of wooden shovels, made from one piece,
were brought to light. They have been referred to as snow shovels, but were
evidently intended for handling sand or ashes. A ton or more of rusted pen
points found in the stationery store furnished additional proof as to where
some of the money went.
Early in 1885, it became apparent that the Canal could not be completed
under the sea level plan within the time or estimated cost. During the previous
year the promoters foresaw the end, and began to sell their stock. M. Leon
Bover, who succeeded Dingler as director had time to report before his death
from yellow fever a few months after his arrival on the Isthmus, that the canal
could not be completed by 1889, and to submit a plan for a lock canal. In May,
Old French dump cars. Steel cars, 18 feet long, were used exclusively. The cars dumped on one
side only, and were too small for economical use. Most of these were scrapped by the Americans.
1885, MI. De Lesseps asked the French Government for authority to issue
lottery bonds for a loan of $120,000,000, to replenish the depleted treasury.
Before granting permission, the Government sent out M. Armand Rousseau,
an eminent engineer, to investigate conditions. He reported that the canal
could not be finished within the time and cost estimated unless clhinged to the
lock plan. Similar reports were made by an engineer sent out by the company,
and by the agent of the Colombian Government on the Isthmus, the latter
stating that the canal could not be completed before the expiration of the
concession in 1892. In February, 1885, Lieutenants Winslow and McLean of
the United States Navy, reported that there remained to be excavated 180,000,-
000 cubic yards; that the work would take 26 years at the then rate of progress.
and that the cost would total $.350,000,000.
M. De Lesseps withdrew his request for permission to issue lottery bonds,
but would not consent to a change in plans. He obtained temporary financial
relief by the issue of bonds to the value of about $70,000,000, but as money
again began to get scarce. he consented to a change in plan, and in October,
1887, a temporary lock canal, with summit level above the flood line of the
. -- ., -TIATS
CITNE TD-)D DIVIDED ----c-E W20J, TTNITED
Chagres River, to be supplied with water by pumping, was decided upon.
Under the new plan, it was estimated that the cost would reach $351,000,000
and would require 20 years to build. There had already been spent at this time
nearly $'.50,000,000, and only about two-fifths of the work had been ac-
complished. The end was in sight.
Work was pushed forward under the new plan until May, 1889, when the
company became bankrupt and a liquidator was appointed to take charge.
Under the liquidator, the work gradually diminished and was finally suspended
on May 15, 1889. It was soon realizc1 tllat the only way anything could be
saved to the stockholders was to continue the project. Late in 1889, the
receiver appointed a commission composed of French and foreign engineers,
eleven in number, to visit the Isthmus and determine whether or not the canal
could be compllleted. This co( nisiion reported on May 5, 1890, that a lock
canal might be completed within eight years at a cost of $174,600,000. It
reported that the plant on hand was in good condition and would probably
Old French locomotives. One hundred and nineteen of these were rebuilt
and used by the Americans.
suffice for completing the canal. It also estimated the value of the plant and
the work already accomplished at $87,300,000, or one-half of the total cost.
Meanwhile, as a result of the exposure and investigation of the affairs of
the old company, M. De Lesseps and his son Charles were sentenced to five
years imprisonment, and similar sentences were imposed upon several others
of their associates. The French Court of Appeals annulled the sentence of
Charles de Lesseps, and that against his father was never executed for, at that
time, January 10, 1893, he was 88 years old and a physical and mental wreck;
he died in the month of December, following.
As the Wyse conce,,ion had nearly expired, the receiver obtained from
Colombia an extension of ten years. It was stipulated that the new company
should be formed and work upon the canal resumed on or before February 28,
1893. As this condition was not fulfilled, a second extension of 10 years was
obtained, to run not later than October 31, 1894.
THE SECOND OR NEW COMPANY
The Compagnie Nouvelle du Canal de Panama, the New French Canal
Company, as it is generally known, was organized under a special law on
October 20, 189!, with a capital stock of $13,000,000, with shares valued at $20
each. Six hundred thousand shares were sold for cash, the greater part being
taken by the receiver, the contractors, and others, who had been interested in
[ 62 ]
mor no I'~ m me r Prinimum a ,, 1< .
The top picture shows Bas Obispo in the first French Company's days, at the northern end
of their proposed lock. The center picture shows French cranes at work. The French using
laborers to fill cars is shown in the lower picture. Cableways, in the distance, were also used for
[ 63 ]
_i_ TDA-_.DIIVI DED --~cTi Wo o UJw U
the old company and escaped criminal prosecution by taking the new stock;
and 50,000 shares given to the Colombian Government for the extension of the
concession. The new company took possession in 1894, and work was im-
mediately resumed in Culebra Cut with a force large enough to comply with
the terms of the concession. As excavation work at this point was necessary
under any plans that might be decided upon, it was continued, while elaborate
and extensive studies of the Canal project were begun by competent engineers.
The plan finally adopted by the new company involved two levels above
the sea, one an artificial lake to be created by a dam across the Chagres River at
A number of old French dredges, which were valueless except as junk,
when the United States acquired them.
Bohio, and another a high level canal through Culebra Cut at an elevation of
68.08 feet above mean tide, to be fed by water by a channel leading from a
reservoir to be constructed at Alhajuela in the upper Chagres River valley.
The lake level was to be reached from the Atlantic by a flight of two locks, and
the summit level by a second flight of two locks. On the Pacific side four other
locks were provided for, the two middle ones at Pedro Miguel being combined
in one flight, and the others being located at Paraiso and Miraflores. On the
Atlantic side there was to be a sea level channel to Bohio, 17 miles inland, and
on the Pacific side at Miraflores, about 8 miles inland. The depth of the
canal was to be 29.5 feet, with a bottom width of 98 feet. The locks were to be
in duplicate, 738.22 feet long, 82.02 feet wide, with a normal depth of 29.5
feet. The lifts were to vary from 26 to 33 feet.
A second plan was also worked out in which the upper level was omitted,
the cut through the divide being deepened to 32 feet above sea level, making the
artificial lake created by the dam at Bohio the summit level. Under this plan
the feeder from Alhajuela was omitted, although the dam was to be retained to
control the Chagres. One flight of locks on the Atlantic side and one lock on
the Pacific side were also to be omitted. The estimated cost of completing the
canal under this plan was not much greater than the first, and all work on the
first plan for several years would be equally available under the second.
Although the first plan was adopted on December 30, 1899, no effort was
1maile to carry it out, on account of the interest being shown by the United States
in a canal across Nicaragua. It was realized that if the United States should
undertake to construct such a waterway, the work accomplished and the plant
on the Isthmus would be practically worthless. In 1895, there was a force of
[ 64 ]
]E MDVIDED -ym 0ogjva TTKITED
men numbering about 2,000 at work in Culebra Cut, and a year later this was
increased to 3,600. This was the largest number of men employed under the
new company, for only enough work was done to hold the concession and keep
the equipment in a salable condition. The French at that time were beginning
to look for a purchaser; they wanted $100,000,000 for the work and equipment,
but the only likely buyer was the United States. The Isthmian Canal Com-
mission, appointed by the Spooner Act of 1899, reported in November, 1901,
in favor of the Nicaragua route unless the French company was willing to sell
out at $40,000,000. This recommendation became a law on June 28, 1902,
and the New Panama Canal Company was practically forced to sell for that
amount or get nothing.
Although the French on the Isthmus worked under difficulties which
eventually forced them to give up the Canal undertaking, they removed with
their clumsy side excavators, now obsolete dredges, small Decauville cars and
toy Belgium locomotives, a considerable amount of material from the
Canal prism, a large part of which has been found useful under the present
The old company excavated 66,743,.5.51 cubic yards, from 1881 to 1889, and
the new company excavated 11,403,4 y9 cubic yards up to 1904, a total of 78,-
146,960 cubic yards; 18,646,000 cubic yards of this total were taken from
Culebra Cut, the operation of the new company being practically confined to
A pile of old French dump cars. Many tons of this scrap material have been collected
along the line of the Canal.
that portion of the work. Of this total, it has been figured that 29,908,000 cubic
yards have been useful to the Americans. The old company dredged a channel
from deep water in Panama bay to the wharves at Balboa which has been used
Iby ships docking at that port. On the Atlantic side. the channel dredged inland,
known as the French canal, was found useful upon deepening in bringing sand
and stone for the locks and spillway concrete at Gatun.
The French also turned over valuable surveys and studies of the work,
together with plans that have been found of great value to the American or-
ganization. The best of this class of work was done under the new company.
cg-^ pD DIVIDED ---G C1E WORUN WMITEP
This is especially true of the records kept of the flow and floods of the Chagres
River, together with rainfall records, so essential to the present plan.
FRENCH AID TO AMERICAN PROJECT
Much of the work of preparation during the first two years of American
occupatioi n-1904-1905-would have been seriously delayed without the
French supplies and equipment. In the shops and storehouses were found a
plentiful supply of repair parts, shop tools, stationary engines, material and
supplies of all kinds of good quality. At Gorgona, where the principal shops
were located, known during the French times as Bas Matachin shops, were
found sheds filled with old locomotives, cranes and excavators. One hundred
car loads of foundry and machine shop material were removed from this point.
Repair shops were found at Empire, Paraiso, Gatun and Bohio. A small
machine shop was uncovered in the jungle at Caimito Mulato, when American
Another view of a part of the old machinery, a legacy from the French. All of the junk
along the line of the Canal, both French and American, is being turned into dollars, having been
sold to a Chicago wrecking concern.
engineers were running the center line of the Canal. There was also a dry dock
at Cristobal, which was originally 190 feet long, 32 feet wide and 16 feet deep
over the sills at ordinary high tide. At Balboa on the Pacific side, there was
located a repair and marine shop for the floating equipment. The old French
shops in every case formed the nucleus of the larger and better equipped shops
maintained by the Americans during the period of construction.
During the first two years of American occupation, French locomotives
were the only ones available by the Isthmian Canal Commission. On June 30,
1906, there were 106 in service, and only 15 American locomotives. The same
is true of the French dump cars. In 1904, there were 308 in service, and in
1905, over 2,000 had been repaired and put in commission, as compared with
300 American-built cars. At the present time there are about 100 French
locomotives and 200 Decauville dump cars in serviceable condition. In
December, 1904, there were six old French excavators working in Culebra Cut,
~ijEj T^l TIVIDED -31iR EO-3_ IE
which had been overhauled and placed in service. These were similar to ladder
dredges, and the excavation was accomplished by an endless chain of buckets
which carried earth and rock from one side and dropped it into a hopper from
which it fell into dump cars on the other side. These machines were effective
only when working in soft material. They remained at work 18 months before
they were replaced by modern steam shovels.
The floating equipment on hand was considerable, and many dredges,
clapets or self-propelling hopper barges, tugs, launches, etc., were found in the
marine graveyards at Folks River, Cristobal, and in the mouth of the Rio
Grande at the Pacific entrance to the Canal, as well as along the banks of the
Chagres River. Many of these were floated, rebuilt and placed in commission.
On account of the excellent material used in the construction of this equipment,
most of which was Scotch-built, the Americans found it highly profitable to
repair them. Heavy coats of paint and oil, which 20 or more rainy seasons
A laborer looking for his belongings after a flood. The damage and loss of property
caused by the floods during the rainy season is clearly pictured here.
could not penetrate, had been given the machinery when it was retired, so that
when the hulls were not worth repairing, the valuable parts were used elsewhere.
Several dredges were reconstructed from parts of others. A Scotch ladder dredge
with a capacity of about 130,000 cubic yards per month was repaired at a cost
of about $30,000, which, when new, cost about $(200,000. At the present time
there are several French dredges doing excellent work on the Canal.
Two thousand, one hundred and forty-nine buildings scattered along the line
of the Panama Railroad were included in the turn-over. These were generally
small and ill-suited for use, other than as laborers' barracks or storehouses, but
it was found profitable to repair some 1,500 of them even after they had stood
unused for ten yea rs or more. The large piles of French scrap, old locomotives,
boilers, dump cars, parts of machines, etc., which used to be one of the sights
along the line of the Panama railroad have slowly disappeared. Much of it
has been sold as junk to contractors, while the copper, brass, white metal, rails,
and cast iron have been used in the foundry at Gorgona. Old French rails
[ 67 1
DIVIDED C--cE OIZ.D, TTD ITED
have been used in the reinforcement of concrete in the lock walls, for the repair
of dump cars, and for telelelime and telegraph poles.
Seven years after the Canal was taken over from the French, May, 1911,
the present Isthmian Canal Commission made a careful official estimate of
the value to the Comminion of the franchises, equipment, material, work done,
and property of various kinds for which the United States paid the French Canal
Company $40,000,000. It places the total value at over $42,000,000 divided
Excavation, useful to the Canal, 29,708,000 cubic yards......
Panama Railroad Stock ...............................
Plant and material, used, and sold for scrap ................
Buildings, used .......................................
Surveys, plans, maps, and records .......................
Land ............................... ..............
Clearings, roads, etc ................. .............
Ship channel in Panama Bay, four years' use. .............
A mechanical oddity-tree grown through an old French dump car.
I 68 1
X N Isthmian Canal Commission organized for the construction of the
Canal was appointed under the provisions of An Act of Congress
approved June 28, 1902, called the Spooner Act. This Act author-
ized the President to acquire, in behalf of the United States, at a cost
not exceeding $40,000,000, the rights, franchises, property, etc., including the
shares of the Panama railroad, owned by the New French Canal Company,
and to obtain from the Republic of Colombia perpetual control of the necessary
strip of land across the Isthmus, which control should also include the right to
perpetually maintain and operate the Pananma railroad, and jurisdiction over
the ports at either end.
If the President should be unable to obtain a satisfactory title to the prop-
erty, and the control of the necessary territory, within a reasonable time and
upon reasonable terms, then the Commission was authorized to construct a
waterway across Nicaragua, using Lake Nicaragua and the San Juan River,
after the President had first obtained perpetual control, by treaty with Costa
Rica and Nicaragua. The impossibility of the United States to come to a
satisfactory agreement with Colombia, who thought that the United States was
now committed to construct a canal across Panamaa and, therefore, could be
made to pay a larger amount than first offered, led to the revolution of November
3, 1903, by which Panama, a state of Colombia became the Republic of Panama,
and the signing of a treaty by the new Republic by which the United States was
granted in perpetuity the necessary territory. This strip of land, known as
the Canal Zone, containing about 436 square miles, extends from deep water in
the Atlantic to deep water in the Pacific (three miles from the low water mark
on either side), and five miles on either side of the center line of the canal.
Included in this grant are the Islands of Naos, Perico, Flamenco and Culebra
in the Bay of Panama. which are now connected with the mainland by a break-
water, and upon whicli fortifications are being placed. The cities of Panama
and Colon are excluded from the limits of the Canal Zone, but the United States
exercises sanitary control over them, and also has the right to maintain public
order in them in case the Republic of Panama should not be able in the judg-
ment of the United States to do so.
[ 69 1
MEMBERS OF THE ISTHMIAN CANAL COMMISSION.
COL. GEO. W. GOETHALS, U. S. A., COL. WILLIAM C. GORGAS, U. S. A.,
Chairman and Chief Engineer. Chief Sanitary Officer.
COL. HARRY F. HODGES, U. S. A., H. H. ROUSSEAU, CIVIL ENGINEER, U. S. NAVY,
Assistant Chief Engineer. Assistant to the Chief Engineer.
Copyright, Harris & Ewing, Washington, D. C.
[ 70 ]
MEMBERS OF THE ISTHMIAN CANAL COMMISSION.
COL. WILLIAM L. SIBERT, U. S. A.. COL. D. D. GAILLARD,
Division Engineer of the Atlantic Division. Division Engineer of the Central Division.
HON. RICHARD LEE METCALFE, JOSEPH BUCKLIN BISHOP,
Head of Department of Civil Administration. Secretary.
Copyright, Harris & Ewing, and Clinedinst, Washington, D. C.
[ 71 ]
CM T_ _6-1A-D DIVIDED T--CI--- WOrU- !EY
As compensation to the Republic of Panama, the United States paid
$10,000,000, and agreed to make an annual payment of $250,000, to begin nine
years after the date of the treaty. These annual payments commenced in
February, 191. ORGANIZATION OF THE CANAL COMMISSION
The first meeting of the Isthmian Canal Commission was held in Washing-
ton, D. C., on March 22, 1904, with the following members appointed by the
President: Rear-Admiral John G. Walker, Chairman; Major-General George
W. Davis, U. S. A., William Barclay Parsons, C. E., William H. Burr, C. E.,
Benjamin H. Harrod, C. E., Ewald Grunsky, C. E., and Frank J. Hecker.
On May 9, 1904 Ex-President Roosevelt, by Executive Order, placed the
immediate supervision of its work, both in the construction of the canal and in
the exercise of such governmental powers deemed necessary under the treaty
with Panama in the Canal Zone, in the hands of the Secretary of War, William
SThe full Coinmision first arrived on the Isthmus on April 5, and estab-
lished temporary headquarters in the old De Lesseps residence in Cristobal.
A thorough study ws made of the plans and methods of work as carried on by
the French, in which work it was assisted by Maj. William M. Black and
Lieutenant Mark Brooke, U. S. Corps of Engineers, and by M. Renaudin, the
resident representative of the New Panama Canal Company. From this
examination it was found that new and extended surveys would be necessary
before any of the problems of location and construction could be settled, so the
first step of the Commission on its return to the United States on April 29, was
the organization of engineering parties. Five of these were organized, the first
leaving for the Isthmus about the middle of May, and the others shortly after.
Surveys and investigations were made by these parties of the proposed harbor
improvements of Colon, the proposed dams for the control of the Chagres River
at Gatun, Bohio and Gamboa, and the design of water works and sewers for
the cities of Colon and Panama.
TAKING POSSESSION-CHANGE IN CHIEF ENGINEER
The United States represented by Lieutenant Brooke, U. S. A., took
possession of the French canal property on May 4, 1904, and operations were
continued with the same employes and laborers, about 700, that had been left
by the French company, for work had been continuous in Culebra Cut from
the beginning in 1881, except for a few years, in order to hold the franchise.
Although neither the equipment nor the organization of this force was adequate,
it was considered advisable to maintain it for the time being and to gradually
introduce necessary changes in the organization and in the equipment.
Lieutenant Brooke remained in charge of this work until the arrival of
Major-General Davis, who was appointed Governor of the Isthmus on May 8,
1904, and arrived on May 17. On the day of his arrival it was announced to
the inhabitants of the Canal Zone that the territory had been occupied by the
United States of America. This was a little bit too precipitate for the Pana-
manians who had been accustomed under the French regime to much speech-
making, feasting, and champagne drinking when any undertaking was put into
operation, so they protested to the State Department, to the end that, to their
minds, more fitting ceremonies were later indulged in. Governor Davis was
also placed in temporary charge of the construction work until the Chief
[ 72 ]
The chroniclers of history for all time will associate the names of Roosevelt, Taft and Wilson
The chroniclers of history for all time will associate ~he names of Roosevelt, Taft and Wilson
with the world's greatest undertaking,-the construction of the Panama Canal. Students of the
subject will doubtless concede that to Theodore Roosevelt should be accorded the distinction of
inaugurating the enterprise, to his successor, former President Taft should belong the honor of
four years of faithful service in carrying forward the stupendous work so encouragingly begun,
and to President Woodrow Wilson falls the duty of installing the splendid success which the re-
sources, perseverance and indomitable courage of American citizenship have rendered possible.
[ 73 1
T E A -D DIVIDED r~l/B WOJDP TINTE
Engineer, Mr. John F. Wallace, entered upon his duties on June 1, 1904. Mr.
Wallace resigned as Chief Engineer on June 25, 1905, after serving one year,
and was succeeded by Mr. John F. Stevens on July 20, 1905.
Mr. Wallace, who had become dissatisfied with the working methods of
the first Commission was made a member of the Commission under an Executive
Order dated April 1, 1905, which reorganized it, and gave to him full control
in the department of construction and engineering. This reorganization was
brought about by the Secretary of War who, by direction of the President in
March, 1905, requested the resignations of the commissioners, which were at
once tendered. It was believed that this change would make a more effective
force for doing the required work, and do away with the long delays occasioned
in purchasing material and supplies and in the accomplishment of work by
government "red tape" which had become so irksome to Mr. Wallace. His
resignation shortly after this change, six days after his return to the Isthmus
from Washington, was hard to understand, but it is possible that the question of
health entered considerably into his decision, for it was at this time that the
first outbreak of yellow fever among the Americans had occurred and the first
victim was Mrs. Frank Seager, the wife of Mr. Wallace's private secretary.
THE NEW COMMISSION
The new Commission created under the above mentioned Order consisted
of the same number of members, seven, but full power was practically vested in
three members who were placed in charge of the three executive departments
created. One department was under the direction of the Chairman of the
Commission, Theodore P. Shonts, and took charge of the fiscal affairs, the
purchase and delivery of material and supplies, the accounts, bookkeeping,
and audits, and the commercial operations in the United States of the Panama
railroad and steamship lines, with headquarters in Washington; another, under
the Governor of the Zone, Charles E. Magoon, which looked after the ad-
ministration and enforcement of law in the Zone, the sanitation of the Canal
Zone and the cities of Panama and Colon, and the custody of all supplies and
construction necessary for sanitary purposes, and the third, under the Chief
Engineer, John F. Wallace, which had charge of the work of construction, the
custody of all supplies and plant on the Isthmus and the practical operation of
the railroad on the Isthmus with special view to its utilization in the Canal
An executive committee of not less than three members, a majority of
whom constituted a quorum was also created to act in place of the full com-
mission, which had heretofore only met quarterly, during the intervals between
meetings, in order to secure the uninterrupted course of the work. This
execcItive committee met twice a week in the office of the Governor on the
Isthmus until it was abolished on November 17, 1906.
The new department of Government and Sanitation was placed in charge
of Mr. Charles E. lMagoon, as a member of the Commission, vice Major-Gen-
eral Geo. W. Davis, who returned to the United States on May 9, 1905, in ac-
cordance with instructions received from the Secretary of War, on account of
failing health. When General Davis left the Isthmus he turned the work over to
Col. W. C. Gorgas, the Chief Sanitary Officer, who acted as Governor until
May 25, when Governor Magoon assumed the duties of his office.
The new Commission now consisted of seven members, as follows: Chair-
SOME OF THE MEN ON THE BIG JOB.
(1.) Hezekiah A. Gudger, Chief Justice of the Canal Zone Supreme Court. (2.) Frank
Feuille, Counsel and Chief Attorney of the Isthmian Canal Commission and the Panama Rail-
road. (3.) H. A. A. Smith, Examiner of Accounts. (4.) A. S. Zinn, Resident Engineer in the
Central Division, who has been identified with the work in Culebra Cut since 1906. (5.) Henry
Goldmark, designing engineer, in charge of the lock gates of the Canal. (6.) T. B. Monniche,
designing engineer, in charge of the emergency dams of the locks. (7.) John H. McLean,
Disbursing Officer of the Isthmian Canal Commission. (8.) Capt. Robert E. Wood, U. S. A.,
Chief Quartermaster of the Isthmian Canal Commission. (9.) W. G. Comber, Resident Engineer
of the Sixth (Dredging) Division. (10.) Capt. Charles W. Barber, Chief of Canal Zone Police.
(11.) C. E. Weidman, Chief of the Fire Department. (12.) Tom M. Cooke, Chief, Division of
Posts, Customs, and Revenues. (13.) Lieut. Col. Eugene T. Wilson, Subsistence Officer. (14.)
George M. Wells, Resident Engineer, Department of Municipal Engineering. (15.) Harry O.
Cole, Resident Engineer, Fifth Division.
[ 75 1
CEj TANM-P DIVIDED 7--F WWOJD01b, TTN TED
man, Theodore P. Shonts, Charles E. Magoon, also Governor of the Canal
Zone, Rear-Admiral Mordecai T. Endicott, Brigadier-General Peter C. Hains,
U. S. A. (retired), Col. Oswald H. Ernst, U. S. A., Benjamin M. Harrod, and
John F. Wallace, also Chief Engineer.
COMMISSION AGAIN REORGANIZED
On November 17, 1906, the commission was again reorganized by Execu-
tive Order in order to promote harmony and to secure results by more direct
methods and a centralization of power. In order to do this, the following
S departments were created under the new organization: Chairman, Chief
Engineer, General Counsel, who took over the duties of the Governor, Chief
Sanitary Officer, General Purchasing Officer, General Auditor, Disbursing
Officer, and Manager of Labor and Quarters.
On September 25, 1906, Gov. Charles E. Magoon, was transferred to
administer affairs in Cuba, and was succeeded by Richard Reid Rogers the
General Counsel in Washington on November 19, 1906. While Mr. Rogers
was in Washington, Mr. H. D. Reed acted as head of the department on the
Isthmus until the arrival of Mr. Jo. C. S. Blackburn who was appointed as
Head of the Department of Civil Administration on April 1, 1907. On April
2, 1907, the authority of the Governor, or Chief Executive of the Canal Zone,
was transferred by order of the Secretary of War to the Chairman's office, so
from that time the Chairman and Chief Engineer has in reality been Governor
of the Canal Zone also.
Mr. Shonts resigned effective March 4, 1907, and the resignation of
General Hains, Major Harrod, and Rear-Admiral Endicott, were accepted on
March 16, 1907. Finally, Mr. Stevens resigned effective April 1, 1907. The
resignation of Mr. Stevens was as great a surprise as that of Mr. Wallace.
According to the report current at the time, the chief engineer became alarmed
over the possibility of awarding the contract for the construction of the canal
to the Oliver-Bangs combination, and wrote a letter to the President, setting
forth that the canal organization had been pretty well perfected; that more dirt
had been taken out during the previous 30 days than had ever been taken out
before in the same length of time; that he did not care to share the work of
building the canal with anyone, nor be hampered with men less familiar with the
subject than himself. He intimated that if his wishes were not complied with
he would quit. The letter is said to have caused ex-President Roosevelt
something of a shock, but with his characteristic spontaneity of action, he cabled
acceptance of the "resignation."
In order to get competent men who were used to working under Govern-
ment regulations and orders, and who would "stick," ex-President Roosevelt
resorted to the Army, with the result that three officers of the Corps of Engineers,
U. S. A., the Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, U. S. N., an officer of the
Medical Corps, U. S. A., and two civilians were appointed in their places, thus
practically abandoning the plan of carrying on the work under civilian direction.
Under this new organization a combination of the positions of Chairman and
Chief Engineer was effected, and the creation of the Department of Sanitation,
distinct from Civil Administration was made. It was also required that the
commissioners take their station on the Isthmus and thus be in direct touch
A feature of the Fourth of July celebration at Cristobal, in 1911, when Colonel Goethals delivered an address. A flag chorus of school children is
seated back of him. The Fourth has been religiously observed by the Americans on the Isthmus every year since 1904.
CTUqE jA-jD IlVIDED --cT-H WP -D, IJJNITED
with the work under their charge. This new commission assumed its duties
on April 1, 1907, and consisted of the following:
Col. Geo. W. Goethals, U. S. A., Chairman and Chief Engineer; Col. D. D.
Gaillard, U. S. A., Head of Department of Excavation and Dredging; Lieut.-
Col. Wm. L. Sibert, U. S. A., Head of Department of Lock and Dam Construc-
tion; Col. W. C. Gorgas, U. S. A., Chief Sanitary Officer; Civil Engineer H. H.
Rousseau, U. S. N., Head of Department of Municipal Engineering, Motive
Power and Machinery and Building Construction; Jackson Smith, Manager,
Labor, Quarters and Subsistence; Jo. C. S. Blackburn, Head of Department of
Civil Administration; Joseph Bucklin Bishop, Secretary.
The personnel of the above commission has remained unchanged with three
exceptions. Jackson Smith resigned on September 15, 1908, and the depart-
ment of labor and quarters is now a part of the Quartermaster's Department
under direction of Captain R. E. Wood, U. S. A., and the Subsistence Depart-
John F. Wallace, first Chief Engineer of the John F. Stevens, second Chief Engineer. He
Panama Canal. He entered upon his duties June was appointed July 20, 1905, and resigned April
1, 1904, and resigned June 25, 1905. 1, 1907, Col. Geo. W. Goethals, taking his place.
Copyright, Clinedinst, Washington, D. C.
ment under direction of Major Eugene T. Wilson, U. S. A., as a separate depart-
ment. Mr. Jo. C. S. Blackburn resigned, effective December 4, 1909, and was
succeeded on May 13, 1910, by Mr. Maurice H. Thatcher, Mr. Rousseau acting
as Head of the Department during the interval. Mr. Thatcher resigned, effective
on June 14, 1913, and was succeeded by Mr. Richard L. Metcalfe, the present
head of the department.
The Departments of Excavation and Dredging and Lock and Dam
Construction were abolished and, on July 1, 1908, became the Atlantic Division,
under Colonel Sibert, having charge of the dredging operations in the Atlantic
entrance, and the lock, dam and spillway work at Gatun, and the General
Division, under Colonel D. D. Gaillard, which has charge of the excavation in
the Culebra Cut section. On July 15, 1908, the Pacific Division was organized
and charged with the lock, dam and spillway work at Pedro Miguel and Mira-
flores, and the dredging work in the Pacific entrance under Mr. S. B. William-
son, Division Engineer. Upon the resignation of Mr. Williamson on December
llP TIAZLj DIVIDED --~TH- WO^ -NITEDg
12, 1912, the Pacific Division was abolished and its work was placed under the
immediate charge of the Chief Engineer, as the Fifth Division of the Department
of Construction and Engineering. On May 1, 1913, the dredging work of the
Atlantic and Pacific Divisions was consolidated under Mr. W. G. Comber,
Resident Engineer, forming the sixth Division of the Chief Engineer's office.
The Department of Municipal Engineering, Motive Power and Machinery, and
Building Construction, was abolished on August 1, 1908, and became a part of
the Department of Construction and Engineering with Mr. Rousseau, Assistant
to the Chief Engineer in charge. The present commission consist of the
Colonel Geo. W. Goethals, U. S. A., Chairman and Chief Engineer;
Colonel H. F. Hodges, U. S. A., Assistant Chief Engineer (Appointed July 14,
1908, vice Jackson Smith); Civil Engineer H. H. Rousseau, U. S. N., Assistant
to the Chief Engineer; Colonel D. D. Gaillard, U. S. A., Division Engineer,
Central Division; Lieutenant-Col. Wm. L. Sibert, U. S. A., Division Engineer,
Atlantic Division; Colonel W. C. Gorgas, U. S. A., Chief Sanitary Officer;
Richard L. Metcalfe, Head of Department of Civil Administration; Joseph
Bucklin Bishop, Secretary.
Of these eight men, Colonel Gorgas is the only one who has been in the
service since the inauguration of the work. Colonel Gaillard left the Isthmus
on August 9, 1913, on special leave of absence, suffering from a nervous break-
down, due to his long service on the Isthmus, and it is probable that he will not
THE PURCHASING END
The Commission maintains an office in Washington in charge of Major
F. C. Boggs, U. S. A., who fills the positions of Chief of Office, and General
Purchasing Officer. The work is apportioned among the following divisions:
General Office, Disbursing Office, Office of Assistant Examiner of Accounts,
Appointment Division, Correspondence and Record Division, and Purchasing
Department. The Appointment Division has to do with filling requisitions
for American employes, and during the fiscal year ending June 30, 1913, 2,065
persons were tendered employment on the Isthmus in grades above that of
laborer. Of this number, 1,183 accepted and were appointed, covering 59
different positions. The purchasing branch was organized on August 15, 1907,
and placed under the supervision of the Chief of Engineers, U. S. A., with an
officer of the Corps of Engineers in charge. Additional offices for the purchase
of materials are maintained at New York, New Orleans, and San Francisco.
Medical and hospital supplies are purchased through the Medical Supply
Depot of the Army in New York. Nearly all supplies are purchased under
contract by means of advertising for bids and making awards thereon, and all
material is carefully inspected before shipment, although the right is reserved
of making final inspection on the Isthmus. As an illustration of the work of
this department, a total of 7,087 orders were placed during the last fiscal year
to the value of $12,335.973.12.
[ 79 1
HE high mortality among employes encountered by the builders of the
Panama railroad and by the French during their operations indicated
that, to keep a suitable working force on the Isthmus, the Canal
Zone, and the cities of Panama and Colon would have to be made
healthy. Realizing this, one of the first divisions of the canal work to be
established was that of sanitation under Col. W. C. Gorgas, who, prior to his
arrival on the Isthmus, had successfully stamped out yellow fever and sub-
stantially reduced the high malaria rate in Havana, Cuba. This division was
at first a part of the Department, of Government of the Canal Zone, but, on
account of the importance of the sanitary work it was later made a distinct and
separate department. That its work under the direction of Colonel Gorgas
has been entirely successful, may at this day, be readily seen. Instead of a
pest hole with an unsavory reputation as "a white man's graveyard," the
Isthmus has become a winter resort for an increasing number of tourists each
year. Not only was it necessary to free the Isthmus from pestilence in order
that the canal work might be accomplished, but it was just as necessary that it
be kept in that condition for all time.
Dr. Ronald Ross of the British Army in India is credited with the discovery,
through successive experiments in 1898, that the Anophlllcs mosquito is the
germ-carrier for malaria. This mosquito bites an infected person and carries
the germ to other persons. In the same way another species of mosquito, the
Styoimyia, was found to be responsible for yellow fever. The theory of yellow
fever transmission by mosquitoes was exploited as early as 1883, by Dr. Carlos
Finlay of Havana. The definite and indisputable test was made in July, 1900,
at Quemados, Cuba, by four members of the United States Army Medical
Corps, who had been appointed as a commission for the study of the disease.
These four men were Doctors Walter Reed, Jesse W. Lazear, James Carroll,
and Aristides Agramonte. One of these men, Dr. Lazear who allowed himself
to be bitten by an infected mosquito, died from the resulting attack of yellow
fever. Dr. Carroll also contracted yellow fever during the experiments, but
recovered. A reward of $200 was offered to encourage volunteers, and of the
many enlisted men who took part in the experiments, the first to present them-
selves \\ere John R. Kissinger and John J. Moran, both of whom stated that
[ 80 ]
. .. &.J.:,,;, *,, ...; e *"
,.,,. =".. -.'. h. .','. -,.- '" x i "' ," ", "" '" :' -" : "
';"'F t .
I- -7.,.sl- t .., .
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ........'i -- r~6
One of the driveways in Ancon Hospital grounds. Ancon Hospital is world-famed, and the grounds are among the most beautiful in existence.
The site covers about 80 acres, on the slope of Ancon Hill, and the environment is decidedly pleasing to the eyes of both the sick and well. Over
250 varieties of trees and plants are grown in the grounds.
JI -. N
[ 81 ]
Every square foot of swamp was a breeding place for mosquitoes. Draining swamps, sub-
soiling and burning grass, are some of the methods used in the prevention of mosquito breed-
ing. The man in the upper picture is shown burning grass which grows along the open ditches
and drains. In the lower picture he is shown spraying larvacide on the grass.
- I -'T7 .
Jj DJ )VDED ____RH ETO D ITD
they would undergo the experiment only
on condition that they should receive no
reward for such service. They both
contracted the fever and recovered; I
Moran is now in the employ of the
Commission on the Isthmus. After ex-
tensive experiments, the mosquito trans-
mission theory came to be fully accepted
by experts on tropic diseases.
By this knowledge the work on the
Isthmus was greatly simplified. The
prophylactic method of fighting yellow
fever and reducing nala rin was found to
be in the extermination of the mosquito
as far as possible, and screening dwel-
lings against them. As soon as wire
netting could be brought to the Isthmus
all buildings in the Canal Zone were
properly screened. The destructive
methods consist in the draining of low
places, removal of vegetation, in the
damp shade of which mosquitoes breed, A mosquito disguise, which took first prize in the
and the killing of larvae by oiling poolS masquerade contest in Panama Carnival of 1904.
and streams that could not be drained.
At the outset, Colonel Gorgas was hampered by the failure of the Com-
mission in Washington to realize the immediate necessity for large expenditures
The genus Stegomyia mosquito, male and female. The female on the left, the male in the
center and the larva on the right. The species has distinctive markings, and the harp-shaped
design near the head is found on no other mosquito. The male does not bite, and is, therefore,
harmless; it is the female that causes all the trouble.
It took months of labor, and sortie after sortie, before the mosquito horde began to thin. A
gang of about 900 natives was at one time engaged with ladders and paste, sealing all the crevices
in the houses in Panama, prior to fumigation. Streets were paved, a water system installed, and
a general clean-up was made.
[ 83 ]
C9ED b"ADJIIVIDED 0---CTE O 3 UUIITED
The quarantine station on Culebra Island in Panama Bay. Owing to the fact that the Isthmus
is hemmed in on both sides, by plague-infected ports, the most rigid precautions are observed, and
steamers from these ports are held in quarantine, unless they have been seven days at sea.
for the purpose of exterminating the mosquito. This was later remedied, and
the purse strings were loosened. An outbreak of yellow fever among the
recently unacclimated Americans began in December, 1904, and lasted until
December, 1905. During the epidemic there were in all 246 cases and 34 deaths.
Of this number, 134 of the cases and all of the deaths were among canal
employes. The constantly increasing headway made by the disease in the
early months of 1905 caused a panic among the employes. A great many of
them left the Isthmus as soon as they could obtain accommodations on the
overcrowded steamships. This was an object lesson, and resulted in a partial
suspension of actual canal construction work until the eradication of yellow
fever was effected. In addition to a rigid quarantine, a relentless fight was
waged against the mosquito, with the result that the last case of yellow fever
occurred in May, 1906, two years after the work started.
THE FIGHT ON THE MOSQUITO
When a case of yellow fever was reported or found by one of the corps of
Colon Hospital, on the Atlantic side of the Isthmus. It stands on the sea beach, and some
of the wards are built over the water.
f 84 1
.d* ; +~~
The above comparison of-before and after paving-is not exaggerated. When the Ameri-
cans took charge of the work many of the streets in Colon and Panama City were veritable bogs
in the rainy season. Now, both cities compare favorably in clean, well paved streets, with others
of their size.
J >A DIVI DED --< q E__ WO_-I TTUNITED
inspectors in the course of a house-to-house search for cases, the patient was
immediately taken to the hospital and placed in a room protected by screening.
The next step was the thorough fumigation of the house from which the patient
had been removed, in order to kill any infected mosquitoes that might remain.
Finally an endeavor was made to locate and fumigate the source of infection.
When the epidemic of 1905 was at its height, the plan of fumigating every house
in the cities of Panama and Colon, whether or not there had been cases of yellow
fever in them, was carried out. The native residents at first submitted to the
fumigation with poor grace, as they are immune and could not see the necessity
The Dispensary at Ancon. Dispensaries and Field Hospitals are maintained at all the
important Canal Zone settlements for first aid treatment.
for it. Later, they became more reconciled, but complaints were numerous.
There is now pending in Congress a claim for $50,000 to cover damages due
to a fire in the Malambo district of Panama in the spring of 1905, which is
claimed to have been started by the overturning of a fumigating oven.
The fight against the Anopheles, the malaria-carrying mosquito, has been
continuous, for it is next to impossible to eliminate it entirely. This species,
unlike the Stegomyia, is strong on the wing and is, therefore, able to enter the
cities and villages after breeding in the swamps and stagnant pools in the out-
skirts. To counteract this as much as possible, miles of drainage ditches have
been constructed in the vicinity of the canal towns; small streams are kept
cleaned out to facilitate the flow of water; swamps have been filled in and grass
and rank vegetation kept cut. Regulations are also enforced against allowing
[ 86 3
.-: -WA.- RD3 I_ A D IAN-D:
The Government operates two main hospitals. One at Ancon and the other at Colon. The
Ancon Hospital is the larger and best equipped, with a reputation in the Tropics second to none.
It was begun by the French in 1883, but many improvements have been made by the Americans.
[ 87 ]
ft 'A '" '
ff, ^'- -5 :
-tt wP a
f f -igr : ;.. 7'
c~-NED T k;WPYJ.D4Z~~lf B- U~E;~O 2-JrITED
There are 47 wards in the Ancon Hospital, and this is the interior of one of them. The white
American employes, European laborers and the negroes, are cared for in separate wards. There
are private wards also, and one for charity cases. The Canal Commission furnishes free medical
treatment to all of its employes.
any water receptacles, like tin cans, etc., being thrown into the bush where they
might fill during a rainstorm and make ideal breeding places for the mosquito
larvae. Such possible breeding places as cannot be eliminated by draining
and filling are sprayed with a form of oil, called larvaecide, which destroys
the mosquito larvae as they come to the surface of the water to breathe. In
spite of all these efforts there are many cases of malaria, but the number has
been rapidly reduced, and the type of disease has been reduced from a virulent
to a comparatively mild type. While the mortality from malaria was never so
high as other forms of tropic disease, Colonel Gorgas always considered it one
of the most important on account of the heavy sick rate. Medicinally, the
disease is treated by quinine, many thousands of pounds of which have been
used in the hospitals and issued from the dispensaries maintained in each canal
zone village. CLEANING HOUSE
While a war of extermination was being waged against the mosquito, it
was also absolutely necessary to clean house, especially in the cities of Panama
and Colon. The latter place, the site of which was partly a tidal swamp, had
to be filled in. Proper sewer systems were installed in both cities, where none
existed before, unless the open drains in the streets, filled with refuse and other
filth, could be called sewers. Suitable water systems also had to be introduced,
for up to July 4,.1905, the supply of water was drawn from the cisterns which
were allowed to fill during the rainy seasons, or from wells, and afterward
peddled from door to door by the aguadores or water cartmen. When the
water was turned on, all cisterns were closed. Likewise the streets which
became virtually mud holes in the rainy season were properly paved with brick
or graded. A method of garbage disposal was also provided, for up to this time
_E_ T_-PI f IVIMDED "I W-- U0 _D,_TNITED
buzzards were the only scavengers. Now, the streets are kept swept and the
garbage is collected every night from especially designed containers which every
householder is supposed to have. It is then transported to low swampy places
in the outskirts of the cities where it is burned, the ashes being used as a fill.
In the Canal Zone, garbage is usually destroyed at incinerating plants. In
Panama and Colon the collection is made by the health department of the Canal
Commission. All the street, sewer and water improvements in these cities
(lone by the engineering department of the Canal Commission will be paid for
by the Republic of Panama from its water rates, on the amortization plan.
The money advanced by the United States, about $3,500,000, is to be repaid in
50 years from July 1, 1907, but at the present rate of payment, settlement will
have been made much sooner.
The villages in the Canal Zone along the line of the Canal were not so
filthy as Panama and Colon, but were without sewer and water svts'teml. Since
then several reservoirs have been constructed, and all houses are connected with
sewer systems. Macadam roads have gradually replaced trails; garbage is
collected daily and properly disposed of; grass and other tropic vegetation is
kept cut down in the vicinity of dwellings, and well-kept gardens and hedges
make the construction villages appear like model towns. Strict sanitary
regulations are enforced in all the Canal Zone towns, as well as in the cities of
Panama and Colon, and each place has its sanitary inspectors, or inspector.
RESULTS HAVE JUSTIFIED THE COST
With cleanliness alone, however, the high sick and death rate could not be
materially reduced. The successful war on the mosquito, which was started
...... 0 .
Along the coast a few miles from Panama City, is a Leper colony of 24 persons, called Palo
Seco. This is the colony house and surroundings. The lepers are well treated, and have all the
creature comforts furnished free by the Government, and spend a part of their time growing veg-
etables for their own consumption.
AW TA~ED DIVIDED D -c- crTT~I W 1/O.M, UNJTE
by Colonel Gorgas when the engineers were busy constructing water works and
sewers, has freed the Isthmus of its reputation as a pest hole, and has made its
sick and mortality rate compare favorably with cities in the United States, or
any other parts of the civilized world. The following tables indicate the effec-
tiveness of the preventive work of sanitation on the Isthmus:
COMPARATIVE STATEMENT OF DEATH RATES AMONG CANAL EMPLOYES ON
THE ISTHMUS OF PANAMA UNDER THE ORIGINAL FRENCH COMPANY
FOR 1884, THE YEAR THE MAXIMI'M NUMBER OF EMPLOYES
WERE WORKING, AND THE AMERICAN COMMISSION,
1904 TO 1912, INCLUSIVE.
Death Rate per
Avcra g No. of No. of Deaths, 1,000
Year. Employes. Disease Only. Disease Only. Lives Saved.
1884 ...... 17,436 1,198 68.69 ......
1904 ...... 6,213 55 8.84 422
1905 ...... 16,512 412 24.96 722
1906 ...... 26,547 1,046 39.40 778
1907 ...... 39,238 964 24.57 1,731
1908 ...... 43,891 381 8.68 2,634
1909...... 47,167 356 7.55 2,884
1910 ...... 50,802 381 7.50 3,109
1911 ...... 48,876 374 7.65 2,983
1912 ..... 50,893 325 6.37 3,172
Total for nine years. .................. ............ 18,435
TOTAL POPULATION OF PANAMA, COLON AND CANAL ZONE AND DEATH
RATES IN SAME.
Year. Population. Annual Average Lives Saved.
Death Rate per 1000
1904 ......... 35,000 52.45 .....
1905 ......... 56,624 49.94 142
1906 ......... 73,264 49.10 299
1907 ......... 102,133 33.63 1,922
1908 ......... 120,097 24.83 3,317
1909 ......... 135,180 18.19 4,631
1910......... 151,591 21.18 4,740
1911 ......... 156,936 21.46 4,863
1912......... 146,510 20.49 4,682
1913 (June 30) 130,456 21.10* 4,090
Total for nine and a half years...... -............ .. 28,686
*Computed on six months' figures, but averaged for a year.
Only two cases of bubonic plague have developed on the Isthmus
American occupation. These occurred in Balboa, the first in June,
Panama, Colon, and the towns in the Canal Zone were without water mains or sewers in 1904.
Eight reservoirs have been built, and now water is plentiful; sewers ramify the cities, and the gar-
bage is collected daily and burned. Many good roads have also been built, and the Las Sabanas
road is much used by automobile and horseback riders. The United States advanced the money
for this work, but Panama is to pay it back inside of 50 years.
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C TIAN- DIVIDED D--acE WOIJD,TTNITED
On the Mount Hope Road between Cristobal and Gatun, is Mount Hope Cemetery, once
known as Monkey Hill, where thousands of French Canal employes, victims of yellow fever, lie
buried. Under American supervision the cemetery has been greatly beautified. Each of its aven-
ues is lined with a different kind of fruit tree.
The village was immediately cleaned and disinfected, and a crusade against
rats, the fleas of which are the carriers of buboinc, was started. A "rat"
brigade was set at work in Panama; rat traps were issued free to all persons who
wished them, and a bounty was placed on each rat delivered to the health
In addition to the preventive work done by the Department of Sanitation,
it maintains two large hospitals, one at Colon and the other at Ancon, and each
settlement has a dispensary with a physician in charge. There is also main-
tained a large asylum for the insane at Ancon, while at Palo Seco, a few miles
east of Panama, there is an asylum for lepers. There is also a sanitarium on
Taboga Island, about 12 miles out in the Bay of Panama, where convalescent
white patients are given a week or more to renew fever and work-worn tissues.
One of the most important things shown by the success of sanitary work on
the Isthmus has been expressed by Colonel Gorgas many times, as follows:
"Natives in the tropics, with the same sanitary precautions that are taken in the
temperate zones, can be just as healthy and have just as small a death rate as
inhabitants in the temperate zones. To bring this about no elaborate ma-
chinery is necessary. The result can be attained by any community, no matter
how poor, if it is willing to spend sufficient labor in cleaning, and to observe
well-known rules with regard to disease. The Anglo-Saxon can lead just as
healthy a life, and live just as long in the tropics as he can in his native climate."
The total cost of the work of the Department of Sanitation up to the first
of July, 1913, was $16,250,164.93. This seems to be an excessive cost until it is
considered that this amount includes the maintenance of modern hospitals,
f 92 ]
E J)6-1;D IVIMDED -Zcj7 O BTN UNITED
dispensaries, and quarantine stations at Colon and Panama, costing more than
half of the total amount. To this is added the cost of street cleaning and
garbage collecting, draining and reclaiming swamp land, the salaries of some
15 chaplains, the care of cemeteries and the carrying on of a general under-
taking and embalming business. Colonel Gorgas when he said that it is within
the power of the people of tropic countries to be just as healthy as those in the
temperate zones, figures the actual cost of sanitary work on the Isthmus to the
American Government will be a little more than a cent a day per capital, based
on a population of 140,000.
RIGID QUARANTINE MAINTAINED
Since May, 1904, the quarantine on the Isthmus has been under American
control with stations at Colon, and on Culebra Island near the Pacific entrance
to the canal. In spite of the fact that ports on both sides of the Isthmus, north
and south of Colon and Panama, have been infected with bubonic plague,
cholera, smallpox and yellow fever, the quarantine has been successfully main-
tained. All employes of the Commission arriving on the Isthmus have to
submit to vaccination unless they can show a good scar. Ships arriving at the
Isthmus from infected ports are required to fulfill seven days of quarantine from
the time of their departure. Guayaquil, Ecuador, where yellow fever has been
endemic since the first white man landed on the west coast of South America,
and where bubonic plague has recently gained a foothold, is about four days
steaming for fast ships. As ships stopping at Guayaquil load and unload cargo
where they are in danger of infection, it is necessary for them to be fumigated
before they sail for Panama, and it is also necessary that the 7-day period of
quarantine be fulfilled from the time of such fumigation. Ships making the
trip in four days would, therefore, have to lay in quarantine at Culebra Island
hree days before they could unload their cargo and discharge passengers at
C; iJ&- -
Taboga Island, 12 miles out from the main land, in Panama Bay. It is noted for its sea bathing,
and its pineapples. The native section is primitive and picturesque and contains one of the old-
est churches in this section.
Balboa. In case a ship arrives which cannot show a certificate that all regu-
lations have been properly complied with before leaving Guayaquil, then it is-
ncce(ssary that the vessel be fu iga ted on its arrival at Panama, and pass through
the 7-day detention period at that port. On the Atlantic side, at the present
time, ships sailing from La Guaira, Venezuela, are compelled to consume seven
days, and from Santa Marta, Barranquilla, and Cartagena, they are compelled
to consume six days from the time of sailing. With a rigid quarantine at the
two ports of the Canal, and with the effective work of the sanitary inspectors
kept up as it has been in the past, it seems improbable that a serious epidemic
of yellow fever will ever break out on the Isthmus again.
The Canal Commission's Sanitarium on Taboga Island, where all sick white employes are
sent to convalesce. The employes are given 30 days vacation each year, with full pay, and .30
days sick leave each year, when necessary.
r 94 1
i N the month of September, 1904, the Canal force was at its lowest
Point, numbering about 500. In November, 1905, the force had been
increased to approximately 17,000, and in November, 1906, it was
-practically the same. The following tables show the highest monthly
record for each year since 1906:
1907-October ....... 31,967 1911--December ....... 37,826
1908-April........... 33,170 1912-November ....... .40,159
1909-October ....... 35,405 1913-March .......... 44,733
The Canal force reached its highest point in March, 1913, with 44,733 men,
divided as follows: Panama railroad, 5,248; Panama railroad commissary,
1,274; Isthmian Canal Commission, 32,567; contractors, 5,644; total, 44,733.
Of the above, the "gold" force, composed almost entirely of Americans,
numbered 4,487; West Indian laborers employed by the Commniniion, 10,406;
West Indian artisans employed by the Comniisioin, 13,065; European laborers
employed by the Commission, 4,609. The balance was in the employ of the
Panama railroad and of the contractors. Most of the West Indian laborers
received 10 and 13 cents an hour, while a few received as high as 20 cents
an hour. The European laborers received 16 and 20 cents an hour. The
West Indian artisans were for the greater part paid on a monthly basis, the
balance receiving from 16 to 44 cents an hour.
GETTING THE FORCE TOGETHER
As the work of making the Isthmus a healthful place in which to live
progressed and better living conditions were inaugurated, the work of recruiting
and maintaining a labor force became easier. However, it was never possible
to keep a stable force and, under the best conditions, the American force changed
[ 95 1