The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal

Author: Dan Boyle

At the end of this tutorial, students will be able to:

  • describe why the Isthmus of Panama was the best location to build a canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans
  • describe how the United States gained control of the project to build the canal
  • discuss how the elimination of mosquito-borne illnesses aided in the building of the canal
  • discuss the benefits of having the canal built

From the time of the arrival of Europeans to the Western Hemisphere, the most desirable location to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans was the Isthmus of Panama.  This became especially important to the United States after their victory in the Spanish-American War and the acquisition of islands in both oceans.  

The French had already started to build a canal through the isthmus, but quickly ran out of money because the plan that they had was too expensive.  The first problem that the United States faced was gaining control of the region from the Colombians, but that was quickly solved with a revolution in Panama.  The second problem was the illnesses caused by mosquitos in the region, but with the help of William Crawford Gorgos, that problem was solved by 1906.

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed a treaty with Panama which gave them control of the canal zone at the end of 1999.

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The Panama Canal (Screencast-O-Matic Version)

A look at the building of the Panama Canal, including the United States role in gaining the land

The Panama Canal (YouTube Version)

A look at the building of the Panama Canal and how the United States gained control of the canal zone.

President Jimmy Carter's Speech upon Signing the Panama Canal Treaty