March 21, 2023
"By far the most important action I took in foreign affairs during the time I was President related to the Panama Canal.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Few nations stretch from sea to shining sea, but fewer still have linked two together.
While France gets the distinguished honor of triumphing once at the Suez Canal and failing once in Panama, it is the United States that champions the coveted 100 percent Panama success mantle like a gold star sticker on a first-grade spelling test.
The Panama Canal today sits at the intersection of oceans. It is a physical and symbolic boundary splitting the New World, and its namesake country, in two. Its intricate system of canal locks provides ships the ability to quickly navigate between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans rather than taking the arduous journey around South America’s southern tip—the infamously treacherous and stormy Cape Horn.
This legendary waterway comes with a storied history—trade routes, tonnage, geopolitics. What’s a Panamax, and does it come with a large fry?
But let’s take a minute to step away from grand designs and growth statistics and get into the heads of the people involved.
What was going through the minds of the visionaries who imagined digging through an entire country? What were the conditions of the workers—the laborers who worked day in and day out, experiencing heat, humidity, and disease? And what did the citizens of the United States think about this grand American project happening beyond the Caribbean Sea?
MCPL has a multitude of items in its collection to help you find answers to those questions. Chief among them are the U.S. history databases, but I have also listed some other great resources below to get you on your way:
- Panama Canal: The Brave Who Built the Impossible (National Geographic, DVD)
- The Canal Builders: Making America’s Empire at the Panama Canal by Julie Greene
- The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870 -1914 by David G. McCullough
- The Panama Canal by Marie Roesser
- What Is the Panama Canal? by Janet B. Pascal
- Engineering the Panama Canal by Yvette La Pierre
- Modern Marvels. Panama Canal (streaming video)
- Treaty With Panama (online article)
- The Panama Canal. Shall It Be American or Anglo-American? (online article)
North Independence Branch