Panama Canal Zone Photographs

Recently, a series of photographs entitled Photographs Related to the Operation and Development of the Panama Canal Zone, ca. 1938 – ca. 1960 (185-CZ), went live on NARA’s online catalog.

The 2,483 photographs document various functions of the civil government and the Department of Operations and Maintenance of the Canal Zone.  Included in the images are aerial and ground photos of the topography surrounding the Miraflores, Pedro Miguel, and Gatun Locks complexes. They also show various vessels moving into the locks; the procedures used in moving vessels through the locks such as the use of electric locomotives (mules) in towing vessels into the lock chambers; views of the control house in operation with different personnel; and scenes of locks from the decks of ships. Other images document the removal of gates for repair; overhaul of different lock chambers, such as repair of cracks in concrete walls, and the removal of silt. In addition, there are close-up photos of various types of equipment and hardware used in the operation of the locks that required replacement or repair.

Another body of images documents the various support facilities not directly related to the operation of the canal. Included in these pictures are exterior and interior scenes of clubhouse facilities. The interior views show soda fountains, dinning areas, pastry shops, cafeterias, and kitchens. Other photos show commissary operations. These pictures show various displays of merchandise such as food, cosmetics, and other dry goods for public consumption. There are scenes of the public purchasing goods in these commissaries; standing in line at the check out counters; and various employees helping customers. There are photographs of residential housing complexes, hotels, public schools, ceremonial activities, festivals, and monuments.

These photographs were scanned by researcher Dale C. Clarke in 2003. There are no copyright restrictions on these photographs.

4 thoughts on “Panama Canal Zone Photographs

  1. The Hotel Washington looks familiar; I stayed there on TDY with the U.S. Army in July 1971. It had room fans, but no air conditioning then. It was located just uphill from Pedro Miguel locks. I took a boat ride through the locks, and also rode the Panama Railroad from end to end. It rained hard every afternoon and was very humid there, but there were no mosquitoes, which had been eradicated during construction of the canal by American medical personnel.

  2. I write about being born and raised in the Canal Zone and post on many sites that were started by others that were also living in the zone and on Facebook. With dual citizenship I plan one day to move back to Panama, retiring there. Home sweet home. As a writer I enjoyed this article and photos very much. Great works and quite thorough indeed. Very nice job.

  3. My grandfather worked on the Administration Building and was there when the locks officially were opened. He later brought his whole family down to live there in early 1917. My mother (the youngest) was 4 years old. She grew up there and married my Navy Dad. When I was about 5 years old, Dad was stationed in FarFan Naval Radio Station and I spent the next 3 years getting to know my mother’s family … lots of cousins! Many stories of the family’s times in the CZ!

  4. While I did not make it to Panama Canal area prior to the appropriate COVID-19 restrictions, I really appreciate your blog and Mr. Adams’ vivid photographs. Bravo!

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