Panama & Los Angeles: The Waterworks that made the American West
Panama & Los Angeles: The Waterworks that Made the American West<br />By Kristi Beria<br />History 141<br />Assignment 4 Part 2<br />
A Man, A Plan, A Canal!<br />Fresh off the success of the Suez Canal, Ferdinand de Lesseps proposed building a fifty mile canal across the isthmus of Panama.<br />On a trip from New York to San Francisco this would save 8,000 miles.<br />While de Lesseps was not an engineer, he was an enthusiastic entrepreneur.<br />French workers started to arrive in Panama to begin the construction on the canal.<br />The first job was to cut down the jungle by hand across the isthmus.<br />The conditions were difficult and many starting dying from smallpox, malaria, and yellow fever.<br />Despite the declaration by de Lesseps that the canal would be finished the money ran out.<br />The French were there for 10 years and lost 20,000 lives.<br />The technology and medical knowledge was not at the level it should have been to take on such a tremendous job.<br />In 1889 de Lesseps’ canal company collapsed and he lived the rest of his life as an embarrassment to France.<br />
A Man, A Plan, A Canal!<br />In 1901, President McKinley was shot leaving Theodore Roosevelt in charge.<br />In 1903 the U.S. Senate gave the go ahead to finish the job that the French had started, but Columbia started to balk at the negotiations.<br />French engineer Phillipe Bunau-Varilla rallied many influential Panamanians, known as the Panamanian Revolution of 1903.<br />Roosevelt sent a gunship preventing the Columbians from landing their troops.<br />Panama was independent in less than one day without any bloodshed.<br />The first year, nothing was completed as there wasn’t any planning.<br />John Stevens was appointed chief engineer after the disastrous first year.<br />The first thing he did was stop excavation and to make the construction camps fit places to live.<br />A health and sanitation campaign the likes of which the world had never seen was put into place.<br />
A Man, A Plan, A Canal!<br />After the clean up effort, Stevens came up with the idea of the locks and a much simpler way to construct the canal than the French originally had.<br />He also came up with a way to remove the dirt by rail which meant that a rail line had to be built.<br />His engineering designs that he came up with to help in the construction were genius and far ahead of their time.<br />In 1905 yellow fever had been eradicated from the isthmus.<br />By 1906, Stevens had 24,000 men working on the canal.<br />Roosevelt decided to pay them a visit and it was the first time a president had ever left the country while in office.<br />For reasons that still remain a mystery today, John Stevens suddenly and unexpectedly quit his job.<br />Roosevelt appointed army colonel George Washington Goethals as the new chief engineer.<br />He and his new staff had built locks before and had the experience it took to get the job done.<br />
A Man, A Plan, A Canal!<br />Thousands of people from Barbados were brought in to work for six dollars a week to help finish the construction.<br />Rain and mudslides destroyed equipment and delayed construction.<br />By 1912 the work force was 50,000 men with less than ten percent of them American.<br />By 1913 the channel was finished and the final concrete was poured. <br />1,000’s of tourists flocked to Panama to see the project that was almost finished.<br />The grand opening took place in August of 1914 with the steamer Ancon being the first to cross to the Pacific Ocean.<br />The Canal was finished two years ahead of schedule and under budget.<br />The construction cost 5,609 workers their lives.<br />The total cost spent between the French and Americans was 639 million dollars, which equates to more than seven billion dollars today.<br />
Mulholland's Dream<br />William Mulholland arrived in Los Angeles in 1878.<br />He found work as a ditch digger for the decrepit water system.<br />In 1886 he was made superintendent of the Los Angeles Water System.<br />L.A. had grown to over a million people and by 1903 had sucked dry the L.A. River, their only source of water.<br />Mulholland learned of the Owens River which was located 200 miles north of Los Angeles.<br />Mulholland and Mayor Fred Eaton took a trip there.<br />They wanted to move the Owens River to L.A. but all the water rights were owned by the farmers of the Owens Valley.<br />Mulholland’s men posed as government workers to gain access to the deeds, maps and stream flows of the Owen River.<br />Eaton secretly started buying land and water rights from farmers who didn’t know what was really going on.<br />
Mulholland's Dream<br />The proposed aqueduct would travel through the San Fernando Valley.<br />A group of realtors from Los Angeles started buying up the land in the area in hopes of making a profit.<br />All of this was done in secret, but when it was found out, the voters were allowed to vote for the aqueduct.<br />In the middle of a scorching drought, the citizens of Los Angeles voted to pay for the aqueduct.<br />President Roosevelt helped Mulholland out by making the Owens Valley a national forest so that it could not be developed any further.<br />Construction began in 1905 and over 100,000 men and women worked in sweltering conditions.<br />Mulholland, who had never finished grade school, was in charge of an engineering project the likes of which the world had never seen.<br />It took five years to lay the pipe, yet the project came in under budget and ahead of schedule.<br />
Mulholland's Dream<br />The official opening of the Los Angeles Aqueduct took place in 1913.<br />The aqueduct held four times the amount of water that L.A. needed.<br />In the years that followed the agriculture in the San Fernando Valley exploded and track homes made land owners millions.<br />Mulholland became the highest paid city employee in California history.<br />Ten years after the opening of the aqueduct, L. A. once again needed more water.<br />While the southern Owens Valley had been ruined by the aqueduct, the northern part had been flourishing and Mulholland set his sights on there.<br />Wells were sunk in the northern Owens Valley to pump the ground water into the aqueduct and the Owens Lake went dry.<br />This was the final straw and 100 citizens and a local back manager seized the aqueduct in the Owens Valley.<br />They opened the flood gates and the water drained into a ditch.<br />
Mulholland's Dream<br />Mulholland tried to work with the farmers, but could not reach a deal.<br />The city of L.A. bought up the entire area along with the water rights.<br />The people of the Owens Valley reacted by “dynamiting” parts of the aqueduct.<br />In 1928, Mulholland built a reservoir, the St. Francis Dam, to hold a years worth of Owens River water for Los Angeles.<br />In March a leak was discovered and upon inspection by Mulholland, was declared that it was fine.<br />During the night, the dam broke and whole communities were wiped out, with 200 dead and 300 missing.<br />Mulholland tried to place the blame on “dynamiters”, but this was found to be untrue.<br />While no criminal charges were ever filed, most of Los Angeles turned on Mulholland, even though he took full responsibility.<br />Even though his vision was not completed in always legal means, Mulholland’s aqueduct was what helped create contemporary Los Angeles.<br />
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