Photo of the Week
July 26, 2020

onContextMenu="return false;">

I have been posting photos of people and groups of people for the past few weeks.  I find the study of the builders of the Panama Canal so very interesting.  I came across this old Hallen photo this week and thought to myself, who are all these guys.  A couple of them can be recognized right off the bat, but I didn't know all of them.  I broke out my book Makers of the Panama Canal, which is like a yearbook with photos of key players, movers and shakers and workers that built the Panama Canal.  With this study of photos, I learned who all these men are.  They are truly the movers and shakers that made the Panama Canal project a success.  Their names are shown below and I took some information from the same book Makers of the Panama Canal which may be long, but well worth the read.

L-R – LTC William Luther Sibert, Hon. Joseph Bucklin Bishop, Hon. Maurice H. Thatcher, Harry Harwood Rousseau, Colonel George Washington Goethals, LTC David DuBose Gaillard, Colonel Harry F. Hodges, Colonel William Crawford Gorgas.


LTC William Luther Sibert - From 1907 through 1914, Sibert was a member of the Isthmian Canal Commission and was responsible for the building of a number of critical parts of the Panama Canal, including the Gatun Locks and Dam, the West Breakwater in Colon, and the channel from Gatun Lake to the Pacific Ocean.  He left the United States March 1907, and during the first part of his stay in Panama had charge of all lock and dam construction on the canal. In July, 1908, the work was divided according to territory and not according to the class of work, and the Atlantic Division, with the difficult Gatun locks and dams, was assigned to Colonel Sibert.

Hon. Joseph Bucklin Bishop – Executive Secretary of the Isthmian Canal Commission in Washington, D.C. and Panama (1905 – 1914) and author of 13 books and dozens of magazine articles.  Appointed as Executive Secretary by Theodore Roosevelt and a very controversial annual salary of $10,000 Bishop became Goethals's trusted aide, serving as his first line of defense against workers with complaints and grievances. But Bishop's greatest achievement in Panama would be as founding editor of The Canal Record, a weekly newspaper for the thousands of workers in Panama. His regular reports of cubic yards dug by rival work divisions, and the competitive baseball games they played created a spirit of healthy competition that lifted worker morale and productivity. The “good news” of The Canal Record also built vital public support on newspaper editorial pages back home and in the halls of the United States Congress where annual appropriations required to keep the canal project moving forward.

Hon. Maurice H. Thatcher - Thatcher was a member of the Isthmian Canal Commission and governor of the Canal Zone from 1909 to 1913.  It is no light task to be Governor of the Canal Zone, and to have a hand in the civil administration of its widely varied interests.  Not only does he have supervision and oversight of the divisions of Police and Prisons, Fire Protection, Customs and taxes, roads and streets, water supply and plumbing, postal affairs, and schools, but he has supervision, also, over the street, water, and sewer systems of the Panamanian cities of Colon and Panama; and he was the official channel through which must flow all communication with the Republic of Panama for or on behalf of the Isthmian Canal Commission or the Canal Zone Government. (From the book: Makers of the Panama Canal).  Thatcher was the Commission's longest-lived and last surviving member.  The Thatcher Ferry and Thatcher Bridge were named after him.

Harry Harwood Rousseau – When Roosevelt appointed the fourth commission composed of military men and chaired by Lieutenant Colonel George W. Goethals of the Army Corps of Engineers. Harry Rousseau was among the officers appointed to this commission. 

Arriving at the canal site, LT Rousseau was placed in charge of the Department of Building Construction, Motive Power and Machinery, and Municipal Engineering, which comprised some 10,000 employees.  The department provided support to the three divisions responsible for excavation, lock construction, and sanitation. As department head, Rousseau was responsible for meeting the building construction requirements of these divisions. He had to provide housing, hospitals, schools, messing and recreational facilities for the approximately 40,000 Canal Commission employees; maintain all existing and newly constructed facilities; install and maintain all canal construction machinery, including air compressor plants and electrical installations; and provide water and sewage systems, and road paving throughout the Canal Zone.

By 1908, Rousseau's department had accomplished most of the above, mainly due to his talent for managing a greatly diversified organization. In July 1908 the canal project was completely reorganized on geographic lines. Rousseau's department was abolished, and the canal project was divided into the Atlantic, Central and Pacific Districts, each under a district engineer. Each district engineer was responsible for the total effort in his district, not only canal construction, but also all support activities.

Colonel Goethals, as Chief Engineer, divided his staff into three divisions, each headed by an Assistant Chief Engineer. The First Division was responsible for all civil engineering problems, the Second Division for mechanical questions, expenditure oversight, estimate preparation, and cost accounting, and the Third Division for hydrographical and meteorological work, general surveys not included in the purview of the construction divisions, and special investigations assigned by the Chief Engineer. Goethals placed Rousseau in charge of the Second Division.

It became apparent in 1909 that the canal would be finished. The main concern now became economy: to complete the canal at the least cost. This required the highest degree of funding management and it fell to Rousseau's Second Division to provide it. The division established a series of management methodologies to increase efficiency and better utilize resources. Shops were standardized, personnel strength reduced, and surplus equipment returned for storage and redistribution. Standardization became the watchword throughout the Canal Zone. The effort resulted in annual increases in efficiency-- as much as 25 percent over each preceding year. In 1911 Goethals gave Rousseau an additional assignment: the construction of adequate terminal facilities at Cristobal and Balboa. Since these facilities called for the construction of dry docks, breakwaters, coaling plants and similar facilities, it was only natural that Rousseau, a Navy Civil Engineer Corps officer, should be selected. (Source: U.S. Seebee Museum)

Colonel George Washington Goethals – When history shall come to give final rank and rating to the builders of the Panama Canal, there is no question that the name at the head will be that which appears at the head of this sketch. Other men will be given credit for the beginnings of the enterprise, and work done at various stages by various individuals will receive its warranted mention in the great story, but overall will rise the fame of Colonel Goethals, the American engineer officer who came to the herculean task when it needed a giant's strength to make the undertaking a success. Though man had been fitfully shovel­ing away for years on end trying to join the Atlantic and Pacific through the narrow neck of Panama, the real beginning of the final successful movement dates no further back than April 1, 1907. On that day Colonel Goethals was appointed Chief Engineer and Chairman of the Isthmian Canal Commission. He had been appointed a member of the commission on the fourth of the preceding March, had arrived on the Isthmus eight days later, spent the next fortnight in looking over the field and then, on the 1st day of April, assumed entire executive direction of the vast proposition. From that day to the present there has been no cessation in the forward movement. Day by day the work has gone one step nearer completion and day by day it will continue to go till the task has been completed. With a breadth of grasp which is beyond the conception of the average man, this army engineer has built up a wondrous machine for "making the dirt fly." Into that machine of a million parts have gone men, money and machinery in tremendous quantities, but under the guiding genius of the chief engineer each human, monetary and mechanical unit has been so geared to its fellows that all work smoothly and effectively together and friction in the Canal Zone is a thing of the past. Only those intimately acquainted with Isthmian affairs have any realization of the scope of Colonel Goethal's work. As chief engineer he has charge of the department of construction and engineering which embraces all construction work on the Isthmus; and as chairman of the commission he exercises supervision of all the departments not connected with the construction and engineering—the depart­ment of civil administration, the department of sanitation, the examiner of accounts, the disbursing officer and the quartermaster and subsistence departments. In each phase of the work he has thoroughly capable assistants, but there i nu detail with which he is not personally conversant. (From the book: Makers of the Panama Canal)

LTC David DuBose Gaillard -  The backbone of the Isthmus which connects North and South America is Culebra Hill, lying about three-fourths of the way through from the Atlantic to the Pacific entrance of the canal. This eminence rises to a height of over six hundred feet above sea level. At the point decided upon for the canal it is necessary to make a cut which will measure 494 feet from the highest point to the bottom of the canal. This is the famous Culebra Cut. From it the French took 23,000,000 cubic yards, and when they quit there remained 85,000,000 yards to be removed. By the first of the year 1909, 31,000,000 yards had been excavated, and the remaining earth and rock has been disappearing at the rate of 18,000,000 yards per annum, or 1,500,000 yards per month. As the bottom of the prism becomes narrower progress will necessarily be slower, but if the canal is not ready for opening in 1915 it will not be chargeable to the Culebra Cut. By that time this cut will have been completed and there will be a ship channel through the mountain, 300 feet wide, filled with water to a height of forty-five feet. And the immediate credit for this great part of a still greater project will rightfully belong to Colonel David DuBose Gaillard, the Army engineer who has had charge of this division since he came to the Isthmus with Colonel Goethals on the 12th day of March, 1907. It has been a project which the world will always regard as stupendous, and yet Colonel Gaillard has gone about his duties as quietly and as clear-sightedly as though engaged upon a mere trifle of everyday engi­neering. When treacherous clay, sliding upon slippery soapstone, has intruded, itself upon the work, making it necessary to remove hundreds of thousands additional cubic yards of dirt, he has regarded the extra labor as a mere incident in no wise affecting the ultimate accomplishment of the task to which he was set. He has unemotionally shoveled the clay out of the way, much as a householder shovels a snow slide from his sidewalk, and gone about his business of cutting the backbone of Culebra. The section of the canal over which Colonel Gaillard has immediate supervision reaches from the upper locks at Pedro Miguel to the great dam at Gatun, a distance of thirty-one miles—and one of the by-products of the Culebra excavation is the daily delivery of twenty-one trainloads of material for the Gatun Dam. In other words, what is cut from the mountain goes to make secure the great mound of earth which will hold back the waters of Gatun Lake and the upper level of the canal. (From the book: Makers of the Panama Canal)

Colonel Harry F. Hodges – The great task of bringing the Panama proposition into such orderly shape that the opening of the canal could be foretold with reasonable accuracy, the Chief Engineer has had as Assistant Chief Engineer Lieutenant Colonel Harry F. Hodges of the Corps of Engineers, United States Army. And he has been a right hand man in every sense of the word. In his own department he has made work move with the precision of finely adjusted, well-oiled machinery and as a member of the Isthmian Canal Commission his counsel has always been sought in regard to the general policy of the com­mission's management of the stupendous task committed to it by the American people. Colonel Hodges has had immediate charge of the design of the locks, dams and regulating works which will take the ships from the ocean level at one end, lift them to the upper level of the canal and drop them safely to the waters of the ocean on the other side. The locks are three in number, one on the Atlantic side of the canal and two on the Pacific end. The former are known in the construction work as the Gatun locks and the latter as the Pedro Miguel locks and the Miraflores locks. The two locks on the Pacific end divide the rise in levels, being separated from each other by a little less than a mile of lake, but on the Atlantic end the Gatun locks take the entire rise in one sharply ascending flight of giant steps. As an adjunct of the Gatun locks is the great Gatun dam, which will make a mighty lake and hold back the tremendous body of water that will be contained in the upper level of the canal. Huge as the Panama canal locks will be, the construction contained no terrors for Colonel Hodges, for he has had plenty of experience in lock-building in other canals in North America. (From the book: Makers of the Panama Canal)

Colonel William Crawford Gorgas - While the building of the Panama Canal is an engineering feat, and a feat which will reflect credit for all time on the Corps of Engineers of the United States Army, it is likewise a fact that the engineers could not have carried through their stupendous plans had it not been for a brother officer in another Corps of the Army—Colonel William Crawford Gorgas of the Medical Corps. No student of the history which has been made in the past decade needs an introduction to this particular individual, for when a man's work has won him special promotion at the hands of Congress and individual recognition from the President of the United States he is in a class by himself. The world of science knows Colonel Gorgas as the man who banished yellow fever from Havana and in addition thereto will credit him with having made Panama so sanitary that the 50,000 men engaged in digging the canal have been able to live in practically as good health as if they were working in the most healthful part of the United States. In 1904 he was made chief health officer of the Isthmian Canal Commission, and in that capacity he has repeated his Havana successes. So remarkable was this success that President Roosevelt, on the fourth day of March, 1907, made him a member of the commission. When the Americans took over the Panama strip of Isthmus, it was generally regarded as the unhealthiest place in the tropics. It was taken as a matter of course that men should die like sheep. Colonel Gorgas changed all that, and while Panama may never be regarded as a health resort, it is the sanitary superior of most places where large works are being carried forward, and it may be stated as a fact that the workman on the canal to-day is less likely to succumb to illness than a workman performing like work in any other part of the globe. Aside from his Army work Colonel Gorgas is a leading figure in the medical world.  (From the book: Makers of the Panama Canal)

Home| Photo of the Week | Photo Archives | Main Show Room | Photo Room | Military History    
PC History
| Gift Shop | Links