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One hundred and forty invitations were issued, and among those present were notable men from the United States and every part of Europe. M. de Lesseps proposed... a toast to “The Press”, stating, " That it was the representative of public opinion, and the greatest force of the epoch. With its assistance the greatest commercial interoceanic highway of the world would be made on Colombian territory, under the protection of the Colombian Government and the great powers of the world."

Later he again took the floor and amounced that the International Commission had been completely organized, and that it would be divided into five sections. Lieut. Wyse afterwards proposed a toast to the health of the humble laborers, " Without distinction of race or nationality who, in the future may be the useful and modest instruments to carry to completion the greatest work of the age".

First Blast at Culebra. A numerous party accompanied M. de Lesseps on the morning train of Saturday, January 10, - 1880, to witness the discharge of the first blast on the Cerro Culebra. M. de Lesseps was accompavied by a number of engineers of the surveying party; Dr. Ferro, Colombian Delegate; His Grace, Bishop Paul; Don Damaso Cervera, President of Panama; M. Le Brun, the French Consul, and various residents of the city. With lim also was his seven-year old daughter, Miss Fernanda de Lesseps who was to apply the ol'ctric spark which was to discharge the first blast in the mighty operation of canal construction.

The mine had been carefully laid in an exceedingly hard and compact formation of basalt, at a few feet below the summit, and charged with thirty kilograms of powerful explosive. The operation was performed with complete success, an iminense mass of solid rock being hurled from its original foundation.

The party returned to Panama on the 11 il. in. train exceedingly pleased and enthusiastic over the first practical experiment in canal building on the Isthmus.

American Press on De Lesseps.

self as

“ The arrival of De Lesseps and his party at Colon," said the New York Herald of January 9,1880, gives assurance that this able engineer is quite in earnest in his desire to add to his great fan:e as the constructor of the Suez Canal, the greater fame of opening a navigable way between the two principal oceans. He wishes to satisfy him

to the practicability of his proposed route by personal inspection. It is not likely that any of the obstacles will escape the observation of so trained and competent a judge. If he concludes that none of them are unsurmountable, the world will naturally put faith in his opinion. He has with him H. Dirke, the famous Dutch engineer whose practical achievement in canal making ranks next to the Suez. If the two most celebrated engineers of the age concur in the belief that a ship canal at Panama is practicable at the sea level, capitalists will be likely to have confidence enough to furnish the means for the undertaking. If the belief of De Lesseps in the feasibility of this route should not be shaken, his energy and alertness will have given him a decided advantage in advance of the advocates of the Nicaragua route."

Organization of Finances.

The first canal company was capitalizectat $60.000.000 divided into shares of $100 cach, and $20.000.000 worth of stock was disposed of without e fort. De Lessops went to the United States immediately after his first visit to the Isthmus, and made a tour of all the principal cities in the interest of the undertaking. He Was given an ovation everyw here and succeeded in or using is great deal of enthusiasm. He then madil similar tour of Europe. At a banquet in Antwerp, a composition was improvised for the occasion reading

D. Lessi ps de sa main fute
A Suez ouvrit la porte
D:l'Occident vers l' Orient:
Par sa force et son touage
Il va creer le passage
De l'Orient vers l' Occicient,

The immediate result of his missionary work was the prompt taking of the remaining stock offering of $10,000,000 with as much again bid for. The preliminary budget of expenses, including the cost of the concession footeal up to nearly $99,000,000, and was paid out of the earlier subscriptions. One of the most important items of this budget was the profit-taking on preliminary expenses by the organizers of the company. Under the artiles of incorporation, the organizers were entitled to certain cash payments, and fifteen percent of the net profits. The latter arrangement consisted in the setting aside for the

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benefit of the organizers of some 1300 blocks, or "founders parts”, amounting to 5,000 francs each, and constituted a speculation pure and simple. These blocks later sold all the way from 80,000 to 300,000 francs, the profits thereon accruing to the original holders.

Cost of Canal.

The Scientific Congress estimated the cost of the canal at $214,000,000, while the Technical Commission, on which were two American members, G. M. Totten and W. W. Wright, after personally going over the route, formulated a report on February 14, 1880, estimating the total cubic meterage to be excavated at 75,000,000 and the cost of doing it $168,600,000. On February 20, of the same year, De Lesseps in

letter on

the subject lowered the estimate to $131,600,000, on the ground that he believed certain figures named by the Commission were


too high. He cut down the items of the diversion of the Chagres, and the Chagres dam by $19,000,000, in which judgment he erred as shown by later developments.

Speaking before a meeting of the Society of American Engineers at New York on March 1, 1880, De Lesseps stated that vessels would be able to go from ocean to ocean after the expenditure of $120,000,000. Referring to the type of canal at the same meeting he said:

" If the committee had decided for a lock canal, I should have put on my hat and gone home. Locks are very good for small vessels, but they would not do for large ships. There is a ship now on tho stocks 520 feet in length, and it would take a very long time to take a ship through a canal of this length with a single lock, and with a system of double locks, it would be much more expensive than any deep cutting on the route.”

It is interesting to note in this connection that the ship De Lesseps spoke of is something of a pigmy compared with the floating palaces Lusitania and Mauretania of the present day, whose length exceeds the 1880 vessel by more than 200 feet.

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The Era of Activity. During the first three years the company devoted its energies principally to the work of preparation and getting material to the Isthmus, although by the end of February, 1883, 500,962 cubic meters of earth had been excavated, and a working force of about 3,000 men established. At the very beginning the laborers struck for higher wages. They went to work for 90 cents silver per day, but made a demand for $1.20 per day, claiming that the cost of living had increased, and that the day laborer in Panama was getting $1.00 per day (1). The demand was granted,

(1). Wages of laborers in 1883 were figured in Colombian piastres, worth 84 cents gold each. Therefore the laborer was actually getting 84 cents gold for the day's hire.

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