A ship sails through the Panama Canal in 1915
The Panama Canal is a 48-mile-long man-made waterway located in Central America. It connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through a series of locks, channels, and artificial lakes.
The canal was begun by the French in the late 1800s, but that project ended in failure. It became the pet project of President Theodore Roosevelt, and American construction on the canal began in 1904. But progress was slow and dangerous, and the threat of diseases such as yellow fever and malaria terrified the workers.
However, in 1907, work on the Panama Canal finally began to take off. Yellow fever had largely been eradicated, living conditions had improved (mainly for whites), and the railways for removing dirt had been finished.
In January 1914, the first unofficial ship sailed through the canal from ocean to ocean, and on August 15, 1914, the canal officially opened. Its completion was a feat of engineering and highlighted America’s emergence as a major player on the world stage. The canal also reshaped world trade and travel by greatly reducing the time it takes for ships to cross between the Atlantic and Pacific.
The Panama Canal remained in American hands until December 31, 1999, when control was handed over to Panama. An expansion project was completed in 2016.
Learn more about the Panama Canal through historical newspapers from our archives. Explore newspaper articles, headlines, images, and other primary sources below.
Clippings about the Panama Canal
Early history of Panama Canal and the French failure Wed, Dec 26, 1888 – Page 7 · St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) · Newspapers.comUnited States signs canal treaty with Panama in 1903 Thu, Nov 19, 1903 – 1 · The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) · Newspapers.comPanama Canal considered "a failure up to date" in 1905 Sun, Aug 13, 1905 – Page 38 · The Washington Post (Washington, District of Columbia) · Newspapers.comEradicating yellow fever in the Canal Zone Sun, Nov 19, 1905 – Page 13 · The New York Times (New York, New York) · Newspapers.comImages from the construction of the Panama Canal Thu, Jul 31, 1913 – Page 3 · Dakota County Herald (Dakota City, Nebraska) · Newspapers.comHistory of American involvement in the Panama Canal up to 1913, including deaths Thu, Oct 16, 1913 – 1 · The Bossier Banner (Bellevue, Louisiana) · Newspapers.comFirst ship goes through Panama Canal Thu, Jan 8, 1914 – Page 1 · Belvidere Daily Republican (Belvidere, Illinois) · Newspapers.comThe official Panama Canal newspaper reports on the opening of the canal to traffic Wed, Aug 19, 1914 – Page 1 · The Canal Record (Ancon, Panama, Panama) · Newspapers.comDescription of what traveling through the Panama Canal is like Thu, Jul 10, 1913 – 6 · The Perry County Times (New Bloomfield, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.comMap of Panama Canal Wed, Jun 18, 1913 – 4 · Wausau Daily Herald (Wausau, Wisconsin) · Newspapers.comUnited States transfers ownership of the Panama Canal to Panama Sat, Jan 1, 2000 – Page 2 · News-Press (Fort Myers, Florida) · Newspapers.comPanama Canal expansion completed in 2016 Sun, Jul 3, 2016 – Page 22 · Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, New Mexico) · Newspapers.com