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Panama Canal Research Guide

Panama Canal Research Guide

Panama Canal Research Guide

The Booth Family Center for Special Collections in the Georgetown University Library holds a number of manuscripts collections about the history of the Panama Canal.  Manuscripts collections are generally comprised of personal papers in various formats.  Our Panama Canal collections are listed below with links to the finding aid for each collection.  Finding aids list the contents of each collection.  Please note that some of these manuscripts collections are stored off-site.  It usually takes a few days for boxes to be recalled from off-site storage, so please contact us well ahead of your visit.

Stephens-Chauncey collection

Collection Description: Letters from John L. Stephens, Isthmian explorer and businessman, to Henry Chauncey, his partner in the Panama Railroad Company. Date Span: 1848-1851. Extent: 0.25 linear feet.

Peter J. Sullivan papers

Collection Description: Letters and documents of Peter J. Sullivan, U.S. Minister to Colombia, who attempted to negotiate a treaty for a canal across the Isthmus at Darien. Date Span: 1867-1869. Extent: 6.0 linear feet.

Tomas Herran papers

Collection Description: Correspondence and letter books about Tomas Herran's diplomatic work in producing the Hay-Herran Treaty in 1903. Date Span: 1901-1904. Extent: 2.5 linear feet.

Edward A. Drake papers

Collection Description: Correspondence of Edward A. Drake, who worked closely with the Panama Railway Company from 1888 and 1907. Date Span: 1852-1981. Extent: 0.75 linear feet.

Earl Harding papers

Collection Description: Investigative files of Earl Harding regarding the 1903 Panamanian revolution, American involvement in the Canal Zone, and the libel suit of Theodore Roosevelt against Joseph Pulitzer. Date Span: 1903-1910. Extent: 6.0 linear feet.

T.B. Miskimon collection

Collection Description: Copies of letters and reports by T.B. Miskimon, an inspector in the Panama Canal Zone chairman's office, to George W. Geothals, chairman of the canal construction project. Date Span: 1907-1910. Extent: 0.5 linear feet.

Alfaro Family papers

Collection Description: Manuscripts, photographs, ephemera, and writings by and about Ricardo Joaquin Alfaro, Panama's ambassador to the U.S. (1922-1930; 1933-1936) and president of Panama (1931-1932). Includes his letters to his daughter Yolanda. Date Span: 1889-1992. Extent: 4.25 linear feet.

Esther Neira de Calvo papers

Collection Description: Materials documenting the career of Esther Neira de Calvo; an educator, legislator, feminist, and politician in Panama. Date Span: 1904-1978. Extent: 18.0 linear feet.

A.W. French collection

Collection Description: 13 scrapbooks and one photo album of Archie Wright French, a clerical employee during the construction of the Panama Canal who began work in 1905 and remained in the Canal Zone until 1945. Date Span: 1904-1945. Extent: 2.0 linear feet.

Endicott Panama Rare Book collection

Collection Description: Extensive book collection of naval engineer Rear Admiral Mordecai Endicott, of the Nicaraguan Canal Commission (1895) and the Panama Canal Commission (1905-1907).  The books are searchable in Hoya Search, the main search function for Georgetown University Library.  Endicott books have the location "LAU Special Collections Endicott" in their catalog record.

John F. Stevens papers

Collection Description: Correspondence, photographs, and an unpublished biography of John F. Stevens, chief engineer of the Panama Canal. Date Span: 1850-1980. Extent:16.0 linear feet.

Miles P. Duval, Jr. papers

Collection Description: Correspondence and documents chronicling the career of Miles P. DuVal, Jr., who played an important role in the history and operation of the Panama Canal. He served in the U.S. Navy at the Canal and later conducted research and lobbying work concerning the Canal. Date Span: 1938-1980. Extent: 60.0 linear feet.

Michel Chevalier papers

Collection Description: Papers of French economist and engineer about a concession for a canal through Nicaragua. Date Span: 1863-1876. Extent: 0.25 linear feet.

Lester Bernstein papers

Collection Description: Diary and documents of Lester Bernstein, an employee of the Isthmian Canal Commission in 1899. Date Span: 1899. Extent: 0.25 linear feet.

Eugene Hackert - Nickel collection

Collection Description: Over 200 black and white photographs showing construction of the Panama Canal and life in the Canal Zone. Date Span: 1887-1969. Extent: 1.0 linear feet.

Lester Adams papers

Collection Description: Papers of Lester Adams, a U.S. Medical Corps doctor stationed in the Canal Zone during World War I. Date Span: 1916-1919. Extent: 0.25 linear feet.

Leonor K. Sullivan papers

Collection Description: Papers (photocopies) of Rep. Leonor K. Sullivan, chairwoman of the Panama Canal Subcommittee. Date Span: 1955-1971. Extent: 3.0 linear feet.

Clark W. Thompson papers

Collection Description: Papers of Rep. Clark W. Thompson focusing on Panama Canal tolls. Date Span: 1947-1960. Extent: 5.75 linear feet.

Phillip Harman papers

Collection Description: Extensive personal papers of Phillip Harman, who worked for U.S. non-profit organizations opposed to the Panama Canal treaties of the 1970s. Date Span: 1960-1985. Extent: 42.5 linear feet.

Leonard Z. Lawrence papers

Collection Description: Papers of Leonard Z. Lawrence regarding the use of explosives in the construction of the Panama Canal. Date Span: 1911-1912. Extent: 0.25 linear feet.

Hartley Rowe papers

Collection Description: Correspondence, photos, and reports of Hartley Rowe (1882-1966), an electrical engineer who worked for the Panama Canal Commission and the Panama Railroad in the early 20th century.  Date Span: 1904-1919.  Extent: 1.7 cubic feet.

John P. Adams papers

Collection Description: Letters and legal documents of John Popkin Adams (1812-1856) documenting his service as U.S. Consul at LaGuaira, Venezuela, and covering, in part, his work towards establishing a railroad across the Isthmus of Panama.  Date Span: 1822-1898.  Extent: 1.85 cubic feet.

George S. Smith Papers

Collection Description: Manuscript journal of George S. Smith containing original verse, mathematical information, and an autobiography. The autobiography was written at several different places, notably Panama. Date Span: 1859-1865. Extent: 0.25 linear feet.

U.S. Naval-Panama and Caribbean Photograph Album

Collection Description: Album with Over 200 gelatin silver photographs of Panama (Colon, Cativa, Panama City, San Blas, Portobello), Puerto Rico (San Juan), and Cuba (Guantanamo) taken by a U.S. Navy Serviceman from the Aerial Squadron 51 during his time in the Caribbean, dating from 1939 to 1940. Focusing on Colon (Panama) and showing local night clubs (Silver Spray Casino and Atlantic Night Club), bars (Bilgray’s Tropical and Chinese Bars), theaters (“Native Theatre”), stores (Japanese and “Hon Chong” Chinese stores), streets (Bottle Alley, Bolivar and Front Streets, etc.), the aftermath of the 1940 Great Fire and festive Pre-Lent Celebrations; also with the images of American Naval bases and camps (Coco Solo Naval Air Station, Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, San Juan Camp), squadron members during their leisure time and military activities, Frank Knox on his early inspection of the camp; as well as ethnographic portraits of Guna Indians in San Blas. Date Span: 1939-1940. Extent: 0.25 c.f.

William E. Swift, Sr. - Panama Canal Collection

Collection Description The collection consists of papers and photographs that belonged to William E. Swift, Sr., who served as a civil engineer during the construction of the Panama Canal. It includes Monthly Output notes for the Culebra Section of the Canal all for October 1904; 1 photo of Swift's engineering crew (June-August 1905), 20 commercial photographs of towns, local residents, and some construction, all with following stamp on back: "W.A. Fishbaugh, Photographer. Empire, C.Z., Panama”; 1 copy of a page of Swift's diary related to his work on the canal (PDF file and print out). Date Span: 1904-1905. Extent: 1.0 cubic feet (.0004 Gigabytes - 1 PDF). 

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