WONDERS NEVER CEASE: THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE PANAMA CANAL AT THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU LIBRARY

As the Spanish company Sacyr remains deadlocked in it negotiations with the Canal Authority over the expansion project designed to permit ever larger ships to pass through the canal,  the original scheduled completion date has been moved forward from 2014 to the following year–or later. Untroubled by such news, The Wolfsonian-FIU Library still plans to move forward on its exhibition of Panama Canal materials a few months from now, in this year marking the hundred year anniversary of the original completion of the monumental feat of engineering. Thanks to a generous gift of rare Panama Canal photograph albums, books, and other printed matter made by Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf, our Sharf Associate Librarian Rochelle Pienn has plenty of materials to choose from. Here is her report:

In libraries’ special collections, discovering continuity between the past and the present ascertains the value of historical archives in a modern world. Often just in the matter of daily living, we look far back into our memories to mull over what once seemed chaotic and insurmountable. In the light of current time, we see our resolved struggles as necessary tours-de-force, which accomplished goals or achieved triumph over difficulties.

Trans-Americas Journey

One such amazing feat is the creation of the Panama Canal, which will be celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection contains rare books and original photograph albums about both the French attempt and the American success at building this immense conduit. A timely exhibit of these fascinating materials is in the planning stages. The Wolfsonian-FIU library collection also features colorful brochures and advertising from popular cruise lines that routed ships to the tourist destination.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

Published in 1889 by Wolfred Nelson, Five Years at Panama: the Trans-Isthmian Canal explores the land and people of the Canal’s future setting.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

This map illustrates the critical intersection of land mass and seas at the Isthmus of Panama.

While the author raves about the keen location and other selling points of the Isthmus, his enthusiastic words are juxtaposed by this illustration of second-hand coffins for sale. Many died of exhaustion, disease, and starvation during the long and arduous process of building the Panama Canal.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

The exotic location, potential for adventure, and dramatic twists of the building of the Panama Canal made for wonderful fiction, as depicted in this 1912 novel:

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

Preceding the Panama Canal was the Panama Railroad, an important infrastructure for trade.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

The engineering ingenuity of the Panama Canal rested on the construction of “locks.” This 1912 book of drawings features a view of the Miraflores Lock before its completion.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

This 1912 imprint lauds the beauty and hospitality of Panama, in anticipation of the Canal’s popularity with the travel set:

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

This exquisitely illustrated 1913 book provides detailed descriptions of the people, plants, buildings and streets of Panama. Watercolor paintings by E. J. Read and Gordon Grant highlight tropical scenery and native activity. The book boasts of being “a complete story of Panama, as well as the history, purpose and promise of its world-famous canal, the most gigantic engineering undertaking since the dawn of time.”

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

Frederic J. Haskin’s 1913 book, The Panama Canal, features this aerial view:

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

For more on the Panama Canal from the Jean S. and Frederic Sharf Collection, including stunning original photograph albums, visit The Wolfsonian–FIU Library. Keep checking our catalog for newly added digital images, updated daily.

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~ by "The Chief" on January 28, 2014.

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