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:
AA00016037:00063


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Full Text






James, Fred.criok ; All Szaintn Villa. e, Antigua, D.W.I/


I wont to the Isthmus of Pan:',ma in 1907. I left December
31st 1917. I work from Catun to Balboa. I work with a sur-
veyor putting down stakes for the steam shovel to dig the
earth throwing the mould each nide of the Canal.

From the ti:.ie I went t'-cre, 3 work ..with the surveyor only,
putting down takes dr-lly for thlc cte.-m shovel to dig.

We have got a lock and dam in Gatun and a look and dam in
Miraflores.

I work with the following Gentlemen as listed below:

(1) -;r. Cotton asris.tant E.gineer.
(2) :1r. James assistant hng ineer.
(3) 'r. Baldwin Junior Engineer,
( ) :ir. iWoodcon Transit man.
5) !r. lIerrick Transit man.
(6) "r. Preechit Tranait iman.

There were }m.ny clasr of workers; not only were those
who lay the stn.kes; but there were alco those who operated
the steam shovel.

There were ,ilno baboons into which the mould was placed,
and trains used 1.o take the mould and dump it at a far away
place.

There were over 46,000 workers. Yfy personal No. on the
brans was 46,843.

Working hours in the mornin:- w? 7 a.m., though we left
our homes on the 6 o'clock train to reach for the appointed
time.

We -ot ;neal. at the Comas'ary, .were eatables were sold.

It ,.as the .niltol St ates th-.t rroi.oned to take over the
construction of the Jo-n.o. C.nal. A l-or:t immediately the
people c:; T.n,nam Vq' iLo :were nnxj.o," to );hve the Canal made,
!;cc(ed from Colombia }:ho rcluncd to ra.lify the suggested
arra.ngemcnts, :i'! fornmeie tjem::clveo 3nto a Rfepublic.

The Pa.n uaa C.?.nal Zone is 10 milen w le. At is a strip of
land perpetually. : lea.ned. I., return the United States paid the
new Republic the sum of .l0,00O,O000 and agreed to pay an












James, F. p.2


annual rent of a quarter of million dollars, beginning after
nine years.

.The great difficulty in the way of the construction of
the Canal was dirscase.

It was discovered that the mosquitoes was the carrier of
the disease yellow fever, and persistent war was waged
against it.

The length of the Cnn.-.l from shore to shore is 35L miles,
and from deep water to deep water is almost 144 miles.

I sincerely hope, I have completely satisfied you, and.
have sent the information that is required as advertised by
Ruth C. Stuhl in one of our newspaper where she quoted that
1st, 2nd and 3rd. Prices (50 (U.S.)

First prize; !$30 U.S. 2nd Prize and 420 U.S. dollars.
3rd. prize.

Hoping that I'll be one of the fortunate ones being one
of the personal workcrn.

I say "Thank you" in advance.

I am,
Your faithfully,
FEEDL-uICK JA4ES
P.O. et Ler known n in Anti- u.t Jir. Ja:ices Frederick.




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James, Fred.criok ; All Szaintn Villa. e, Antigua, D.W.I/
I wont to the Isthmus of Pan:',ma in 1907. I left December
31st 1917. I work from Catun to Balboa. I work with a sur-
veyor putting down stakes for the steam shovel to dig the
earth throwing the mould each nide of the Canal.
From the ti:.ie I went t'-cre, 3 work ..with the surveyor only,
putting down takes dr-lly for thlc cte.-m shovel to dig.
We have got a lock and dam in Gatun and a look and dam in
Miraflores.
I work with the following Gentlemen as listed below:
(1) -;r. Cotton asris.tant E.gineer.
(2) :1r. James assistant hng ineer.
(3) 'r. Baldwin Junior Engineer,
( ) :ir. iWoodcon Transit man.
5) !r. lIerrick Transit man.
(6) "r. Preechit Tranait iman.
There were }m.ny clasr of workers; not only were those
who lay the stn.kes; but there were alco those who operated
the steam shovel.
There were ,ilno baboons into which the mould was placed,
and trains used 1.o take the mould and dump it at a far away
place.
There were over 46,000 workers. Yfy personal No. on the
brans was 46,843.
Working hours in the mornin:- w? 7 a.m., though we left
our homes on the 6 o'clock train to reach for the appointed
time.
We -ot ;neal. at the Comas'ary, .were eatables were sold.
It ,.as the .niltol St ates th-.t rroi.oned to take over the
construction of the Jo-n.o. C.nal. A l-or:t immediately the
people c:; T.n,nam Vq' iLo :were nnxj.o," to );hve the Canal made,
!;cc(ed from Colombia }:ho rcluncd to ra.lify the suggested
arra.ngemcnts, :i'! fornmeie tjem::clveo 3nto a Rfepublic.
The Pa.n uaa C.?.nal Zone is 10 milen w le. At is a strip of
land perpetually. : lea.ned. I., return the United States paid the
new Republic the sum of .l0,00O,O000 and agreed to pay an
2 image0149.jpg
James, F. p.2
annual rent of a quarter of million dollars, beginning after
nine years.
.The great difficulty in the way of the construction of
the Canal was dirscase.
It was discovered that the mosquitoes was the carrier of
the disease yellow fever, and persistent war was waged
against it.
The length of the Cnn.-.l from shore to shore is 35L miles,
and from deep water to deep water is almost 144 miles.
I sincerely hope, I have completely satisfied you, and.
have sent the information that is required as advertised by
Ruth C. Stuhl in one of our newspaper where she quoted that
1st, 2nd and 3rd. Prices (50 (U.S.)
First prize; !$30 U.S. 2nd Prize and 420 U.S. dollars.
3rd. prize.
Hoping that I'll be one of the fortunate ones being one
of the personal workcrn.
I say "Thank you" in advance.
I am,
Your faithfully,
FEEDL-uICK JA4ES
P.O. et Ler known n in Anti- u.t Jir. Ja:ices Frederick.