Medals Chronicle History of Waterway
From the Panama Canal Review - October 1, 1979

HUMAN ACCOMPLISHMENTS, whether they be athletic endeavors such as the Olympic Games of the Greeks or engineering feats such as the building of a waterway to join the Atlantic and Pacific oceans have always been recognized or commemorated by a symbol. In the era of the Greeks and the Romans, the laurel wreath was used to distinguish individuals of achievement. In our day, the medal serves this purpose.

On at least five other occasions in the 74-years that have elapsed since the United States undertook to succeed where the French had failed, medals have been struck that had the Panama Canal as their motif.

The Roosevelt Medal, 1 inches in diameter, was issued beginning in 1909 to civilian U.S. citizens who had completed at least two years of satisfactory service with the Canal construction forces or the Panama Railroad Company on the Isthmus between May 4, 1904 and December 31, 1914.

Made of bronze and copper "French junk," scrap metal from the equipment that had been abandoned by the French, the medal features a bust of President Roosevelt on one side and a bird's eye view of steamers passing through Culebra Cut on the other.

The Panama Canal Completion Medal commemorating the opening of the waterway on August 15, 1914,is struck in bronze and has a very unusual design. On one side the medal depicts a ship passing through the Canal with Columbia, the female personification of the United States, standing at the bow. Her arms are outstretched with each hand resting on globes of the eastern and western hemispheres and a ribbon stretching across her body is inscribed in Latin "Columbia Unites the Oceans."

On the reverse is the seal of the Canal Zone and a statement certifying that the medal was carried on the vessel making the first transit of the Panama Canal.

In 1962, the opening of the $20 million Thatcher Ferry Bridge which spans the Pacific entrance to the Canal was commemorated with a medal. The 2 inch bronze and silver medals feature the bridge on the front, and the reverse is blank. The aluminum medals are an inch smaller map of the Isthmus on the reverse.

To celebrate the Canal's Golden Anniversary in 1964, a medal was struck in silver and bronze. On the front the medal incorporates the four Points of the compass and a shield, inside of which a -ship sails through Gaillard Cut. On the reverse is the seal of the Canal Zone.

The National Commemorative Society struck a silver coin-medal in 1971 to commemorate once again the opening of the Panama Canal and to honor Chief Engineer George W. Goethals. On one side is a bust of Goethals and on the other side is a ship in the Cut.

The medals of the Panama Canal chronicle the highlights of human accomplishment on the Isthmus and preserve them for posterity in the beauty of metal. But the Canal itself in all its concrete splendor is the living, functioning monument to those first visionaries who dared to dream of a waterway to connect the oceans; to the thousands more whose sweat and blood brought the dream to completion; and to the men and women today whose labor keeps it operating at peak efficiency 65 years later.

Composed by: CZAngel


Information provided by CZAngel

ROOSEVELT MEDAL DESCENDANTS, legally constituted in Panama as a not-for-profit civic organization, exists for the following primary purposes:

a. to preserve the memory of American citizens who were engaged in the construction of the Panama Canal, and who, for their noble effort, were awarded the Roosevelt Medal by the President of the United States.

b. to establish an association of descendants of Roosevelt Medal recipients to promote civic and cultural activities designed to honor the contribution of their forebears in the construction of the Panama Canal.

c. to encourage research and investigation related to the role of Roosevelt Medal recipients in the creation of the Panama Canal.

d. to disseminate information, and to conduct public ceremonies to ensure that the historic achievement of Roosevelt Medal recipients is not forgotten.

ROOSEVELT MEDAL DESCENDANTS assemble at the Panama Canal on or about August 15 every year to pay tribute to United States citizens employed in the building of the Canal.

All direct descendants of Roosevelt Medal recipients are eligible to apply for membership in ROOSEVELT MEDAL DESCENDANT:

P.O. BOX 3344

Presented by CZBrats
Last Update: October 16, 1998

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