Among the great peaceful achievements of mankind that have contributed significantly to progress in the world, the construction of the Canal stands as an awe-inspiring achievement.
The unparalled engineering triumph was made possible by an international work force under the leadership of American visionaries, who made the centuries-old dream of uniting the two great oceans a reality.
In 1534, Charles I of Spain ordered the first survey of a proposed canal route through the Isthmus of Panama. More than three centuries passed before the first construction was started. The French labored 20 years, beginning in 1880, but disease and financial problems defeated them.
In 1903, Panama and the United States signed a treaty by which the United States undertook to construct an inter-oceanic shipping canal across the Isthmus of Panama. The following year, the United States purchased from the French Canal Company its rights and properties for $40 million and began construction.
The monumental project was completed in ten years at a cost of about $387 million. Since 1903 the United States has invested about $3 billion in the Canal enterprise, approximately two-thirds of which have been recovered.
The building of the Panama Canal involved three main problems -- engineering, sanitation, and organization. Its successful completion was due principally to the engineering and administrative skills of such men as John F. Stevens and Col. George W. Goethals, and Col. William C. Gorgas, who solved the health problems.
The engineering problems involved digging through the Continental Divide; constructing the largest earth dam ever built up to that time; and designing and building the most massive canal locks ever envisioned.