Object of the Day

Culebra Cut

We have this photograph from August of 1913 showing the wreckage from a rock slide with a steam shovel toppled over.


How frequently did accidents like this happen during the construction era?

How did workers with physical ailments, like the man in the center without a left arm, participate?

If you had family members who worked during this era, what did they experience?

Please share with us in the comments section below!


  • Ray Crucet

    These men from the “west indies” , primarely Jamaica, were called the “diggers”. The were the best labor force in the world. The USA tried Chinese, Italian, Spanish and others…all failed to withstand the climate, diet, and work. Note how they dressed for the tropics…always a hat, a tee shit under long sleeved work shirt. This gave them protection from the sun and a cooling effect from a trapped layer of presperation. Most important they had strength, stamina and balance.

    It has been said that “a one armed west indian worker is easily the equivalent of most two armed men from another country”. I believe the US recognized this and estabished local “Silver” settlements like Red Tank” and “Paraiso” for these wonderful people. I grew up in Pedro Miguel with Red Tank close by. We played together…when we were young boys.

    • Mimi Stratford Collins

      I have two portraits of a digger, photographs taken by my dad in Colon in 1954. Dad printed up a bunch of photos for the man and his family, and kept two which I’ve framed and have hanging in my living room. I’m thinking this man may have been from Barbados.

  • Diane French

    It was a hard job building the Panama Canal and it is a mircle they did it!!!!!! So much work and deigated men building it!!!!!!

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