Kilgore Coterie Club • Feb. 28

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The Kilgore Coterie Club met on Thursday, February 28, in the parlor at St Luke’s Methodist Church. Joy Tate and Brenda Maxwell served as hostesses.

Rachael Brian called the meeting to order and introduced Cristi Langley who presented the program on the Panama Canal. The history of the canal dates back to when Núñez de Balboa first crossed the isthmus. The narrow land bridge between North and South America houses the Panama Canal, a water passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The earliest European colonists recognized this potential, and several proposals for a canal were made.

By the late nineteenth century, technological advances and commercial pressure allowed construction to begin in earnest. Noted canal engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps led an initial attempt by France to build a sea-level canal. Beset by cost overruns due to the severe underestimation of the difficulties in excavating the rugged Panama land, heavy personnel losses in Panama due to tropical diseases, and political corruption in France surrounding the financing of the massive project, the project succeeded in only partially completing the canal.

Interest in a U.S.-led canal effort picked up as soon as France abandoned the project. French engineer and financier Philippe-Jean Bunau-Varilla played an important role in I convincing America to build the canal and in the signing of theHay–Bunau-Varilla Treaty which secured both independence for Panama and the right for the U.S. to lead a renewed effort to construct the canal.

U.S. success hinged on two factors. First was converting the original French sea-level plan to a more realistic lock-controlled canal. The second was controlling disease which decimated workers and management alike under the original French attempt. Initial chief engineer John Frank Stevens built much of the infrastructure necessary for later construction; slow progress on the canal itself led to his replacement by George Washington Goethals. Goethals oversaw the bulk of the excavation . William C. Gorgas, an expert in controlling tropical diseases such as yellow fever and malaria was one of the first to recognize the role of mosquitoes inyellow fever the spread of these diseases, and by focusing on controlling the mosquitoes greatly improved worker conditions. On 1 April 1914 the construction was officially completed with the hand-over of the project from the construction company to the Canal Zone government. The outbreak of World War I caused the cancellation of any official "grand opening" celebration, and the canal officially opened to commercial traffic on 15 August 1914 . The Canal remained a territory of the United States until 1977, when the Torrijos–Carter Treaties began the process of transferring territorial control to Panama.

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