National Geographic : 1905 Dec
WHAT HAS BEEN ACCOMPLISHED BY THE UNITED STATES TOWARD BUILDING THE PANAMA CANAL* BY THEODORE P. SHONTS CHAIRMAN OF THE ISTHMIAN CANAL COMMISSION WHEN I received Vice-Presi dent Lupton's invitation to come before your association and talk on the Panama Canal, I ac cepted it with pleasure because of the opportunity it afforded of talking to busi ness men in a business way of what is a great business project. As I view it, the building of the Panama Canal is a busi ness, not a political, proposition. I pro pose, in what I have to say to you, to talk as a practical man to practical men who are themselves engaged in large commercial enterprises and who know from experience the difficulties to be met and the enormous amount of thought and labor involved in the inauguration of great undertakings in the United States. You will be able to appreciate, therefore, how every difficulty was ag gravated in an enterprise of the magni tude of the Isthmian Canal, in which the preparatory work had to be carried on 2,000 miles from the base of supplies. But this is not all. The work had to be done in a hostile climate and under health conditions which, through centuries of neglect of all sanitary principles, had be come a menace to the lives of all persons save natives of the tropics. In order, therefore, to make the Isth mus a place fit to live in and to work in, there were three fundamental tasks which had to be performed in advance of all others: First. Thorough sanitation of the Isthmus. Second. Providing suitable habita tions for all classes of employes. Third. Providing a system of food supply which would afford to all em ployes opportunity of obtaining whole some food at reasonable cost. First. In regard to sanitation : When the United States began this work there were no systems of water works, of sew erage, or of drainage on the Isthmus. The people depended largely on unpro tected cisterns for their water supply, filled during the rainy season, and on barrels filled from neighboring streams, all breeding places for mosquitoes. The filth of ages had accumulated around the dwellings and in the streets, undis turbed except when washed away by torrential rains. Pools of stagnant water had existed for years in proximity to dwellings, and insect-breeding swamps lay undrained adjacent to the cities and many of the towns. Seventy per cent of Panama is now supplied with pure mountain water, fed from a storage large enough to furnish sixty gallons per day to each inhabitant after its present population shall have increased one-half. Fifty per cent of a complete modern sewerage system has been in stalled, and work on the remainder is being carried rapidly forward. The first million of brick for paving its streets are on the ground. The city has been fumigated time and again, first house by house, to stop the spread of disease, and again as a unit-that is, the entire city at one time. A large force is just finishing a thorough cleaning of the city-the first scrubbing it has had dur ing its centuries of existence ; and Gov- *An address to the American Hardware Manufacturers' Association, Washington, D. C., November 9, 1905.