• Uncategorized

    This day in history: Completion of the Panama Railroad

    Just after midnight on January 27, 1855, the final spike for the Panama Railroad line was driven at Culebra, which was known as Summit at the time because it was located at the summit of the Continental Divide. The completed railroad was single-track and stretched for about 47 miles (76 km) between Panama City and Aspinwall (later named Colón). The following day, on January 28, a train crossed the Isthmus for the first time. With the completion of the 5-year construction project, the Panama Railroad became the first transcontinental railroad in the Americas. In 1955, the centennial of the opening of the railroad was celebrated in the Canal Zone with…

  • Collections

    Canal Zone Cemeteries

    We were reminded of the important place that the cemeteries hold in the history of Panama and the Canal Zone by the annual clean-up of the Panamanian cemeteries, supported by CGM Cemetery Preservation Foundation (https://www.cgmcemeteryfoundation.org/) and traditionally held on November 2nd. The PCMC holds several photographs of Canal Zone cemeteries, taken throughout the twentieth century. Help us enhance the collection by describing your memories about the cemeteries or by filling in missing information about the photographs below. 

  • Stories from The Zone

    Voting in the Canal Zone

    Today is Election Day and a chance to look back at the history of voting in the Canal Zone. Printed in the November 1967 issue of the Panama Canal Review, the caption of this photograph reads: “Campaigning was spirited at the Culebra Post Office in 1912 during mock elections. Because U.S.-citizen residents of the Canal Zone could not vote in national elections at that time, mock elections were held a few weeks before elections in the United States as ‘manifestations of political desire for expression,’ according to the ‘Canal Record.’ The tickets usually bore nominations for national and municipal offices and at least one village included on its ticket a…

  • Collections,  Stories from The Zone

    Sports in the Zone

    The PCMC holds a large number of photographs of sports played in the Canal Zone. What sports did you play in the Zone? What was unique about sports in the Canal Zone? Which sports were the most popular or most competitive? As always, please comment if you have any additional information about the photographs below.

  • Stories from The Zone

    Canal Zone Shopping

    It’s already October, which means holiday season shopping is creeping up again. What do you remember about shopping in the Canal Zone? What types of things did you buy in the commissaries and what was only available outside of the Zone? Did you take trips to Panama to shop? Did you order items from the United States? Where did you go for the most affordable items? The highest quality?

  • Guest Blogger

    Stevenson v. Castles

    In honor of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing last week, the PCMC would like to acknowledge her impact on the Canal Zone. In 1973, PCC budget analyst June Stevenson took the Panama Canal Company to court due to unequal employee benefits for women and men. Federally employed Canal Zone women whose spouses were privately employed were denied benefits such as eligibility for housing and free schooling for their children. Ruth Bader Ginsburg served as Stevenson’s attorney and won the case in 1978. Stevenson’s daughter, Lori Snow, summarizes: “June A. Stevenson worked originally with a local lawyer who advised her to seek council from the courts of New Orleans once she encountered…

  • Collections

    La Boca Normal Training School

    In a recent oral history interview conducted by Pan Caribbean Sankofa, Inc. in collaboration with the PCMC, an interview participant recalled her experiences attending La Boca Normal Training School after high school to train as a teacher. She would become a second-grade teacher and, later, a school crossing guard in the community. What do you remember about La Boca Normal Training School or other schools in La Boca? La Boca Normal Training School yearbook, The Thinker, 1944, pgs. 79-82

  • Collections

    Hitting the Open Road

    While this collection extensively covers the Panama Railroad, we also have a number of photographs of cars and buses. What do you remember about this form of transportation in the Canal Zone and Panama? Did you own your own car? Did you ride chivas or other public buses? What do you remember about the Pan-American Highway or other roads in the Canal Zone or Panama? Below are photographs of automobiles from the collection – do you recognize anyone in these photos? Two boys posing on an automobile outside of Cristobal High School, 1935. Men outside a chiva at a farmer’s market, 1939. A car on Gaillard Highway near Miraflores, undated.

  • Stories from The Zone

    Nature in the Zone

    In our recent oral history interviews, many participants have noted the natural beauty of the Canal Zone and Panama, remarking on how special it was to grow up in a “tropical paradise.” What do you remember most about Panama’s natural landscape? Did you often travel in Panama to experience different scenery? What were your favorite natural sites or features of the environment? Frank Hill emphasizing the size of a tree, undated. Woman seated under a banana tree looking at a fawn, undated. Back of photograph reads, “Teresa (Hanson) Roseth (Rossetti?) – another excursion into the interior of Panama with friends. A very frequent occurrence, 1920s.”

  • Collections


    In her memoir, Canal Zone Daughter, Judy Haisten describes her childhood memories of exploiting movie theater seats for their “steelies”:   “Broken seats were common because of the ‘steelies’ – steel ball-bearings that would come out of the seat mechanism if you knew how to get one. The steelie was a hot commodity. We played marbles every day at school and nothing, I mean nothing, beat having a steelie in a marble collection. …The best way to get a steelie was from a movie-theater seat. First you had to find an unbroken seat. Next, you had to bounce hard in the seat, over and over, just right until the seat…