Postal History of
Panama Canal Review -- May 1964
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At the time the Canal properties were turned over to the United States in 1904, the need for a postal service was of extreme importance because the postal service of the Republic of Panama ceased to operate in the Zone.
On June 24, 1904, a postal
service was established as a part of the Department of Revenues and under the supervision
of the Treasurer of the Canal Zone. Paymaster E. C. Tobey, USN, was the first
Director of Posts. On that date, post offices were opened at Ancon, Cristobal,
Gatun, Culebra, and La Boca. On May 5, 1909 the name La Boca was changed to
Balboa. On the following day, additional post offices were opened at Bohi9o.
Gorgona, Matachin, and Empire and then the Canal Zone Postal Service was in operation with
railroad station agents as postmasters.
At first only ordinary mail was handled. Mail for Central and South America and the West Indies was turned over to the Panama Postal Service for dispatch to destinations and mail fr other foreign countries and the United States, its territories and possessions was sent direct to the United States by the Postmaster, Cristobal, on vessels departing for New York.
During 1905, a registry system was established and the Cristobal post office was designated an international exchange office, permitting direct dispatches of mail to all destinations.
In 1906, a money order system was established; in 1911 a postal savings system was instituted, and the pstal service became a stable and growing service, providing full necesary postal facilities for the Isthmian Canal Commission, workers building the Panama Canal and residents of the Canal Zone. the service over the years has grown, with annual increase in mail volume handled and postal business conducted, from a beginning of 9 post offices with 9 employees and annual postal receipts of about $11,000, t 19 post offices, branches and units, with 118 employees and annual gross postal receipts of $1,088,000. Of the nine post offices originally established, only two, Cristobal and Gatun, remain.
The Canal Zone Postal Service has from the very beginning operated as an independent postal system and is established as such by Act of Congress of the United States. However, the Canal Zone like all territories, possessions, and other areas under control of the United States, is represented at postal conventions by the United States Post Office Department.
When the Canal Zone Postal Service was first established on June 24, 1904, a small supply of 2, 5, and 10 cent Panama stamps, overprinted "Canal Zone" were obtained andused until July 18, 1904, when United States stamps overprinted "Canal Zone" were received and placed in use. The United States stamps were used until December 12, 1904 when they were withdrawn and replaced by Panama stamps overprinted "Canal Zone" in conformity with the provision of an executive order issued on December 3, 1904 by Secretary of War William H. Taft.
On May 28, 1924, the Taft agreement was abrogated by the President of the United States and on July 1, 1924, United States stamps overprinted "Canal Zone" were again placed in use and supplanted the overprinted Panama stamps.
On October 1, 1928, the first permanent issue Canal Zone stamp, 2 cent Goethals, was placed on sale. Canal Zone permanent and provisional issues have, over the succeeding years, suuperseded all overprinted United States stamps and stamped paper. The last such item replaced was the 2 cent postal card on November 1, 1958.
The current Canal Zone postate stamps and stamped paper consists of a series of 12 ordinary stamps, 11 picturing members of the Isthmian Canal Commission and others who played a major part in Canal Zone history or in construction and operation of the Panama Canal and one picturing the Canal's Administration Building at Balboa Heights; a series of three postage stamps with the shield of the seal of the Canal Zone as the central subject, and a series of five airmail stamps of the wing and globe design. In addition, there is 4 cent envelope in two sizes with Goethals as the design subject, an 8 cent airmail envelope with a flight symbol and airplane, a 4 cent ordinary provisonal postal card (3 cent card with Panama Canal Lock design and 1 cent postage imprint) and a 6 cent airmail card with map and plane design and 1 cent postage imprint.
Including the current Director of Posts, Earl F. Unruh, there have been seven men in the post. Others: E.C. Tober, June 24, 1904 to September 1, 1904; Tom M. Cooke, September 2, 1904 to March 31, 1914; John J. Gilbert, April 1, 1914 to June 30, 1914; John K. Baxter, July 1, 1914 to March 8, 1916; Crede H. Calhoun, June 1, 1916 to April 30, 1947; and James Marshall, June 4, 1947 to Janiuary 14, 1955.
Last Update: October 4, 1998