Souvenir book of the Panama Canal from the First World War, published by I.L. Maduro's Souvenir Store.

Description of Content


Physical Description

Brown cover with coloured prints Souvenir of the Panama Canal. Published by I.L. Maduro's Souvenir Store p/o Box 281 34-46 Fifth Street and Cathedral Plaza Panama. Inside back cover a model of the Panama Canal. Inside Black and White photos of the construction of the Panama Canal.


The history of the Panama Canal goes back to 16th century. After realizing the riches of Peru, Ecuador, and Asia, and counting the time it took the gold to reach the ports of Spain, it was suggested c.1524 to Charles V, that by cutting out a piece of land somewhere in Panama, the trips would be made shorter and the risk of taking the treasures through the isthmus would justify such an enterprise. A survey of the isthmus was ordered and subsequently a working plan for a canal was drawn up in 1529. The wars in Europe and the thirsts for the control of kingdoms in the Mediterranean Sea simply put the project on permanent hold.
In 1534 a Spanish official suggested a canal route close to that of the now present canal. Later, several other plans for a canal were suggested, but no action was taken. The Spanish government subsequently abandoned its interest in the canal.
In the early 19th century the books of the German scientist Alexander von Humboldt revived interest in the project, and in 1819 the Spanish government formally authorized the construction of a canal and the creation of a company to build it. The discovery of gold in California in 1848 and the rush of would-be miners stimulated Americas interest in digging the canal
Various surveys were made between 1850 and 1875 showed that only two routes were practical, the one across Panama and another across Nicaragua. In 1876 an international company was organized; two years later it obtained a concession from the Colombian government to dig a canal across the isthmus. The international company failed, and in 1880 a French company was organized by Ferdinand Marie de Lesseps, the builder of the Suez Canal.
In 1879, de Lesseps proposed a sea level canal through Panama. With the success he had with the construction of the Suez Canal in Egypt just ten years earlier, de Lesseps was confident he would complete the water circle around the world.
Time and mileage would be dramatically reduced when travelling from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean or vice versa. For example, it would save a total of 18,000 miles on a trip from New York to San Francisco.
Although de Lesseps was not an engineer, he was appointed chairman for the construction of the Panama Canal. Upon taking charge, he organized an International Congress to discuss several schemes for constructing a ship canal. De Lesseps opted for a sea-level canal based on the construction of the Suez Canal. He believed that if a sea-level canal worked when constructing the Suez Canal, it must work for the Panama Canal.
In 1899 the US Congress created an Isthmian Canal Commission to examine the possibilities of a Central American canal and to recommend a route. The commission first decided on a route through Nicaragua, but later reversed its decision. The Lesseps company offered its assets to the United States at a price of $40 million. The United States and the new state of Panama signed the Hay-Bunau-Varilla treaty, by which the United States guaranteed the independence of Panama and secured a perpetual lease on a 10-mile strip for the canal. Panama was to be compensated by an initial payment of $10 million and an annuity of $250,000, beginning in 1913. This strip is now known as the Canal Zone.

More Information

  • Collection Names

    Military Memorabilia Collection, Nowell Collection

  • Collecting Areas

    Public Life & Institutions

  • Acquisition Information

    Donation from Mr Trevor Plumridge, (Estate of) Mr C. H. Nowell - Nowell Collection, 20/02/1986

  • Original Owner

    Clifford H. Nowell - Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Australia, circa 1917

  • Place & Date Depicted

    Panama, 1914-1918

  • Format


  • Inscriptions

    Souvenir of the Panama Canal. Published by I.L. Maduro's Souvenir Store p/o Box 281 34-46 Fifth Street and Cathedral Plaza Panama. Inside back cover a model of the Panama Canal. Inside Photos are as follows: View of Culebra Cut showing slide, Panama Canal, One of the completed Great Gates of the Panama Canal at Gatun, Spillway at Gatun, South approach wall and Gatun Lake, View of Gatun Locks looking into Lake, Miraflores Lock wall compared with height of man, Intake west wall upper locks, Rear view of emergency dam Gatun Locks, Ancon Hospital grounds Ancon Canal Zone, Ancon Hospital, Cathedral Plaza from City Hall Panama, Going to Market Chamé Panama, Native hut and family interior of Panama, His morning feed Chamé Panama, Native boy interior of Panama, Old Spanish Fort at Porto Bello Panama, Completed Gates Gatun Locks, View of Cut at Empire, La Pollera Native costume Rep of Panama, Well Drills Culebra Cut Panama Canal, Cathedral Plaza Panama, Cathedral Plaza and City Hall Panama City, Looking into Gatun Lake from Lock, Ledgerwood Dirt Unloader, Lighthouse for guiding ships Pacific entrance to Panama Canal, Cocoa-nut farm Colon, Nurses Quarters Ancon Hospital, Washing day Chamé Panama, Steam shovels removing the Cucaracha Slide in Culebra Cut, Street scene Panama, Street in Cristobal with Y.M.C.A. building Panama, Inclines on Lock Walls Gatun, Dungeon under old Forts at Porto Bello, Entrance to Fort Santiago de la Gloria(old Spanish Fort) Porto Bello, West chamber lower Lock Miraflores, Blowing up dyke at Miraflores with 19 tons of dynamite, Old Sea wall, General view of Gatun Locks taken from Lighthouse, Gatun Dam and Lake, North approach wall Pedro Miguel Locks, West wing wall showing electric mules Gatun Locks, Approach to upper lock Gatun.

  • Classification

    Military history, Souvenirs & mementoes, Publications

  • Category

    History & Technology

  • Discipline


  • Type of item


  • Overall Dimensions

    258 mm (Length), 204 mm (Width), 25 mm (Height)

  • References

    [Book] Winzenried, A. P. 1991. Green Grows Our Garden: a Centenary History of Horticultural Education at Burnley.

  • Keywords

    Military Memorabilia, World War I, 1914-1918