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Panama Canal: Topics in Chronicling America

In 1914, the Panama Canal opens, after ten years of construction, connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. This guide provides access to material related to the "Panama Canal" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


"First ship through the Panama Canal lock." October 9, 1913. The Day Book (Chicago, IL), Image 13. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

After a spirited debate, the U. S. Senate ratifies a treaty with the newly established Republic of Panama on February 23, 1904, giving the United States control over the Panama Canal Zone. Celebrated as the culmination of American technological ingenuity and medical innovation, the Panama Canal officially opened ten years later. At the time no single effort in American history had exacted such a price in dollars or in human life. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


1889 The French abandon an unsuccessful attempt to build a canal through Panama connecting the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans.
June 19, 1902 The U.S. Senate passes the Spooner bill, authorizing the government to build a canal through Panama.
January 1903 The Colombian senate fails to ratify The Hay-Herrán Treaty, which would have provided the U.S. with the land and rights to build a canal through Panama.
November 1903 A revolution in Panama, aided by the U.S., results in Panamanian independence from Colombia and the establishment of the Republic of Panama.
February 23, 1904 Panama grants the U.S. control over the Panama Canal zone for $10 million.
May 4, 1904 The U.S. acquires French property relating to the canal for $40 million. Construction begins the same year.
November 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt travels to Panama, becoming the first U.S. president to travel abroad while in office.
August 15, 1914 The Panama Canal is officially opened.