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T.R. Roosevelt and the Panama Canal

Vice-president Theodore Roosevelt became president following the assassination of William McKinley on September 14, 1901. Roosevelt was elected and inaugurated as the 26th elected president of the United States on March 4, 1905. One of his priorities was the construction of the Panama Canal as a necessary step to achieve naval superiority of the United States in the world.

Roosevelt, the first U.S. president to leave the country during his time in office, went to Panama for three days in November 1906, during the worst of the rainy season. On the second day he took the controls of a 95-ton Bucyrus shovel, a moment that epitomized his dynamic and bigger-than-life persona.

Theodore Roosevelt portrait. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Theodore Roosevelt at the controls of a 95-ton Bucyrus shovel in Panama. Panama Canal Company.

Canal Zone 2-cent Roosevelt stamp.

"The first mountain to be removed," cartoon. Harper's Weekly, July 22, 1905.

"Digging the Big Ditch," cartoon.

"Making the Dirt Fly," cartoon.

Last modified: Mar 05, 2020