“There is still time to
see the wonders of engineers before they are flooded and hidden forever.”
|The popular press sent writers, photographers,
and artists to the Canal Zone to capture the scope and scale of construction.
Their reports home ignited the public’s imagination and pride in this mammoth
undertaking. Soon the canal became the Caribbean destination, with hordes
of vacationers marveling at such wonders as Culebra Cut, the Cucaracha
slide, and the massive concrete locks.
The canal opened on August 15, 1914. Although opening-day festivities were overshadowed by the beginning of war in Europe earlier that month, an international exposition in San Francisco the next year celebrated the canal’s completion.
Today, after more than eight decades of efficient operation, the Panama Canal remains a symbol of human creativity, persistence, and achievement.
those not lucky enough to visit Panama, illustrated books gave readers
a sense of being there. This volume’s 700 photographs capture the breadth
of work on the canal, aspects of life on and off the job, and the land
outside the 50-mile-long (80-km) by 10-mile-wide (16-km) Canal Zone.
Sections of Panama Railroad ties laid in the 1850s were sold as souvenirs at the Panama Pacific International Exposition. According to folklore, one worker died for every railroad tie in the line’s 50-mile-long (80-km) route.
Between 1910 and 1913, an estimated 68,000 American and European visitors arrived in Panama to view work on the canal. Interest was so great that steamship lines diverted vessels from other routes to the Caribbean.
At Ancon, a town at the Pacific end of the Canal Zone, the Isthmian Canal Commission created a tourist station with a lecture room, relief maps, and models of the locks. Tourists could also visit the work site by taking a special train whose open sightseeing cars had been converted from Panama Railroad flatcars (see postcard at left).
The musicians of Tin Pan Alley played upon public interest in the canal. Cover artwork was often more memorable than the music and lyrics inside.
(left, from top) “Where the Oceans Meet in Panama (That’s Where I’ll Meet You),” by Henry Jentes (music) and Charles McCarron (lyrics), 1914
“The Panamala,” by Gus Edwards (music) and Edward Madden (lyrics), 1914 .