1878-After the success of the Suez Canal. Frenchman Ferdinand de Lesseps was able to mobilizes support for a canal across the Isthmus of Panama. With trade booming around the world, this canal would enable goods to be shipped faster and cheaper, as well as a military advantage in case of war.
Theodore Roosevelt viewed an American controlled canal as critical to U.S. domination of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
1903-French canal builders, after struggling with money issues, agreed to sell their part of the bankrupted Panama venture to the U.S. for 40 million dollars. Civil engineer George Morison persuaded President Roosevelt that Panama was the best route.
Using techniques of Dr. William Gorgas of Havana, they were able to bring malaria and yellow fever under control.
1904-Construction began with thousands of workers from 50 countries, and thousands of tons of heavy equipment. John Stevens, a rail-road engineer was named chef engineer.
The terrain varied from plains and swamps, to rocky mountains. This was some of the most difficult terrain the engineers had ever encountered. Workers used dynamite, air drills, steam shovels, graders, and spreaders, to shape the canal. The Canal Commission, used more than 4000 flat cars, 200 locomotives, and 100 steam shovels.
1907-George Goethals is appointed chef engineer. The Culebra Cut was one of the most difficult sections of the dig. Nine miles long, through a gap in Panamas continental divide, workers were hindered by heavy rains and mudslides.
The swamp and water areas were continuously sprayed with oil, to smother mosquito larva, as disease killed more than 20,000 French and American workers. Other forms of death on the job were from, dynamite, drowning, railroad accidents and other mishaps.
An entire city sprang up around the dig with, homes, cottages, stores, and various shops.
After two years of work, all U.S. workers received a presidential metal, made from the metal of left-over French construction equipment, in their failed attempted.
1914-The canal opens, and the canal zone is 50 miles long, and 10 miles wide.
A train of flat cars needed to carry all the excavated material from the dig, could circle the earth 4 times. The soil removed could build a pyramid 4,200 ft. high. As much as 12 million pounds of dynamite per year was used, and as many as 9,000 workers excavated the Calabria Cut.
The first ship took more than 9hrs., to pass from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean.
The U.S. had spent more than $352 million dollars and 10 years on the project.