Original newspaper articles dating during 194
De Lesseps intended to build the canal at sea level, without locks, like the Suez Canal, but the excavation process proved far more difficult than anticipated.Gustave Eiffel, who designed the famous tower in Paris that bears his name, was then hired to create locks for the canal; however, the De Lesseps-led company went bankrupt in 1889.After the scandal, Eiffel retired from business and devoted himself to scientific research; Ferdinand de Lesseps died in 1894.That same year, a new French company was formed to take over the assets of the bankrupt business and continue the canal; however, this second firm soon abandoned the endeavor as well.
In 1902, Congress authorized the purchase of the French assets. Secretary of State John Hay, and Bunau-Varilla, acting as a representative of Panama’s provisional government, negotiated the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty, which gave America the right to a zone of more than 500 square miles in which it could construct a canal; the Canal Zone was to be controlled in perpetuity by the Americans.In 1513, Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa became the first European to discover that the Isthmus of Panama was just a slim land bridge separating the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.Balboa’s discovery sparked a search for a natural waterway linking the two oceans.August 15, 1914, marks the 100th anniversary of the official opening of the Panama Canal, the American-built waterway across the Isthmus of Panama that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
The 50-mile-long passage created an important shortcut for ships; after the canal was constructed, a vessel sailing between New York and California was able to bypass the long journey around the tip of South America and trim nearly 8,000 miles from its voyage.
The canal builders had to contend with a variety of obstacles, including challenging terrain, hot, humid weather, heavy rainfall and rampant tropical diseases.