Letters from Isthmian Canal construction workers

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Material Information

Title:
Letters from Isthmian Canal construction workers Contest solicitation, overview and entry requirements
Series Title:
Isthmian Historical Society competition for the best true stories of life and work on the Isthmus of Panama during the construction of the Panama Canal
Physical Description:
Mixed Material
Language:
English
Spanish
Donor:
Afro-Antillean Museum ( donor )
Publisher:
Isthmian Historical Society
Place of Publication:
Panama

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Panama Canal

Notes

Scope and Content:
The Contest: In 1963, as the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal drew near, the Isthmian Historical Society decided to make a collection of stories of personal experiences of non-U.S. citizens during Construction Days by means of a contest. This contest was publicized in local newspapers, by notices in the food packages given to Disability Relief recipients, and in newspapers in the Caribbean area. The following letter was sent to a total of 15 newspapers in Jamaica, Barbados, British Honduras, Trinidad, Antigua, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, and Grenada: "The Isthmian Historical Society is trying to collect the personal experiences and viewpoints of those West Indians who served in the labor force that dug the Panama Canal. Very little has been written by them or about them. Soon it will be too late to obtain personal accounts. In the hope of making a permanent record of their experiences during the construction of the Canal, our Society is sponsoring a competition for the best true stories of life and work on the Isthmus of Panama during the construction years. It would be much appreciated if you would assist us in publicizing our competition. I am enclosing a separate sheet with the information for this." The information sheet: "The Isthmian Historical Society announces a competition for the-best true stories of life and work on the Isthmus of Panama during the construction of the Panama Canal. The competition is open to West Indians and other non-U.S. citizens who were on the Isthmus prior to 1915. Entries may be handwritten but must be legible. Anyone who is infirm may have his story written for him by someone else, but in this case it must be stated on the entry that it has been written for him in his own words by someone else. Give name, address, year arrived in Panama, where employed there, and type of work done. All entries must be in the mail by November 1, 1963. The winners will be announced in December. All entries become the property of the Isthmian Historical Society. First prize will be: $50 (U.S.); second prize: $30 (U.S.); third prize: $20 (U.S.)…” Brief notices of the contest were placed in several thousand food packages ("Food for Peace" packages have been distributed monthly by the Panama Canal Company-Canal Zone Government). These notices read: "Competition -- For West Indians & other non-U.S. citizens who worked on the Isthmus before 1915. For the best true stories of life & work on the Isthmus during the Canal construction there will be awarded prizes: 1st PRIZE: $50; … Give year arrived in Panama, kind of work & where, name & address. Write of interesting experiences & people, living & working conditions, etc… The Entries: The majority of the contest entries were handwritten. In some cases the handwriting was difficult to read. In making copies of the entries, it occasionally was necessary to omit an undecipherable word, leaving a blank space to indicate the omission. Although an effort was made to reproduce the letters exactly as they were written, it is probable that there are errors. However, they will detract little from what these Old Timers wanted to say. It should be remembered that these letters were written by individuals who labored on the Isthmus prior to 1915. They are no longer young. Some are handicapped by the infirmities of age: failing eyesight, unsteadv and arthritic hands that find it laborious to form words and sentences, and minds that know what they want to say but communicate it imperfectly. Generally, unfamiliar spellings need only to be sounded and their meaning becomes clear. In cases where the entrants wrote as they speak, there may be dropped "H"8s so that "has" is written "as". Other features of West Indian speech will be noted. As spoken language, there is no English more colorful. Mr. Albert Banister's interesting letter is a good example. The Society is most grateful for all the entries and we regret that there could not be a prize for everyone. Ruth C. Stuhl Competition Editor

Record Information

Source Institution:
Afro-Antillean Museum
Holding Location:
Afro-Antillean Museum
Rights Management:
All rights reserved by the source institution.
System ID:
AA00016037:00046


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Full Text









Fox, Joseph H.; Chilibre Correos, Chilibre, R.P.


By these few lines, you will be enform that I landed hear
April 4, 1910. By this, you Gentlemen will know. That those
days were hard days. My first job were on the rail Road.
Going out in the morning Rain. Work all day in rain until in
the even. At the rate of 10 per hour. I work there for about
3 month. You all must think of the heard time of our food. We
did not have cook as today sometime we look on the food and
leave it the same place on the table cannot be eaten In those
days our sleeping were the poorest thing in the world that a
human could ever think of But we thank God as a breave
soldours, we work for the American government to put through the
Canal. After leave the rail road, I work for the mantiant
division all my days. My eys have seen so much acidient. At
my heel. But I am thanking God that he keep me in safety. I
have- done some job on the Look before I leave home, I have said
father I leave myself into thine hands I am asking you to take
care of me through this sometime'when work is not so plenty-
full the have laid of some of the men for at time but I am
thanking God the last job that I got I work there for 27 years
and some month Thank God. I am thanking God for you American
people heart. That you all have streach out your hands of
sympity to all the old timer. That each day we can get our
daily bread through God and you blessed American people May
God bless you good people that your store house will be
plentious at all time. God bless you all

I am
yours
JOSEPH H. FOX




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Fox, Joseph H.; Chilibre Correos, Chilibre, R.P.
By these few lines, you will be enform that I landed hear
April 4, 1910. By this, you Gentlemen will know. That those
days were hard days. My first job were on the rail Road.
Going out in the morning Rain. Work all day in rain until in
the even. At the rate of 10 per hour. I work there for about
3 month. You all must think of the heard time of our food. We
did not have cook as today sometime we look on the food and
leave it the same place on the table cannot be eaten In those
days our sleeping were the poorest thing in the world that a
human could ever think of But we thank God as a breave
soldours, we work for the American government to put through the
Canal. After leave the rail road, I work for the mantiant
division all my days. My eys have seen so much acidient. At
my heel. But I am thanking God that he keep me in safety. I
have- done some job on the Look before I leave home, I have said
father I leave myself into thine hands I am asking you to take
care of me through this sometime'when work is not so plenty-
full the have laid of some of the men for at time but I am
thanking God the last job that I got I work there for 27 years
and some month Thank God. I am thanking God for you American
people heart. That you all have streach out your hands of
sympity to all the old timer. That each day we can get our
daily bread through God and you blessed American people May
God bless you good people that your store house will be
plentious at all time. God bless you all
I am
yours
JOSEPH H. FOX