Day 77 - FDR visits the Panama Canal
Throughout his travels FDR made many trips through the Panama Canal, including a visit to the nearly completed Canal in 1912. The work on the Canal started under President Theodore Roosevelt and was finished in 1914. FDR traveled to Panama with his brother-in-law Hall Roosevelt and his friend and Republican Senate colleague J. Mayhew Wainright. The trio was given their own personal observation car to use through the nine-mile Culebra Cut. FDR wrote home to his mother Sara saying:
I can’t begin to describe it and have become so enthusiastic that if I didn’t stop I would write all night. The two things that impress me most are the Culebra Cut, because of the colossal hole made in the ground, and the locks because of the engineering problems and size. Imagine an intricate concrete structure nearly a mile long and three or four hundred feet wide, with double gates of steel weighing 700 tons apiece!
Our museum collection includes this watercolor painting of the U.S.S. Houston at the Panama Canal by Ian Marshall. This painting depicts the scene of the Houston passing through the Panama Canal on July 11, 1934 with President Roosevelt on board. This was the first passage through the completed Canal by a U.S. President while in office.
The Panama Canal - Before and After:
- Map of the Isthmus of Panama Showing the Proposed Interoceanic Ship Canal, 1875
- Map of the Panama Canal Zone, 08/01/1920
The first map shows a proposed route for the canal, created during a 1875 U.S. Surveying Expedition. The second shows the route of the canal and the surrounding Canal Zone circa 1920.
After years of difficult work and a loss of many lives to tropical diseases, the Panama Canal officially opened 100 years ago on August 15, 1914. Considered one of the great engineering feats of modern times, the Canal greatly reduced transit time from east coast ports to west coast ports of the United States and for European shippers as well.
Completed 10 years after the United States controversially took control of the project and possession of the surrounding Canal Zone in 1904, the Canal was eventually relinquished to Panama in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter.
After years of difficult work and a loss of many lives to tropical diseases, the Panama Canal officially opened on August 15, 1914, ten years after the United States controversially took control of the land and project. Considered one of the great engineering feats of modern times, the Canal greatly reduced transit time from east coast ports to west coast ports of the United States and for European shippers as well. The U.S. War Department steamship, Ancon, made the first passage through the Panama Canal.
"President Theodore Roosevelt Inspecting Canal Work from Decauville Train"
From the series: Photographs of the Construction of the Panama Canal, 1887 - 1940
The United States formally took control of the property for the planned Panama canal on May 4 1904, taking over from an earlier failed French project. Theodore Roosevelt (seated in the center of the railcar in white) had played a pivotal role throughout the planning and construction of the canal.