Old News – Opening of the Panama Canal

More news from the past. This time about the opening of the Panama Canal from the same day.


Rochester, NY

Saturday, August 15, 1914


Steamship Ancon Making Passage of Isthmian Waterway To-day.


Band Plays “Star Spangled Banner”—Crowds Line Banks.

Panama, Aug. 15,–The United States war department steamship Ancon passed through the Gatun Locks without a hitch to-day in 70 minutes. The total lift at these locks is 85 feet.

SS Ancon passing through the canal

SS Ancon passing through the canal

Panama, Aug. 15. — The canal zone celebrated today the opening of the canal. The festivities, however, were but local and suggested little of the international significance of the event. With the official Panama celebration set for next spring, even the United States was not officially represented to-day except by the men who have long been in the canal zone.

The steamship Ancon, owned by the United States war department and leased to the Panama railroad for service in the New York-Colon trade, was chosen as the first big boat to be put through, signalizing the opening of the canal to all ships up to 10,000 tons register.

Shortly before8 o’clock this morning the Ancon was drawn away from her berth at Cristobal and anchored at the end of the deep water channel from the Atlantic ocean to the Gatun locks. The programme called for putting her through the locks at nine o’clock, her passage of the Culebra Cut at about noon, and her arrival at the end of the deep water channel in the Pacific at 6 o’clock this evening.

The Ancon in New Paint.

All the officers and men aboard the Ancon appeared in spotlessly white uniforms and the ship itself glistened with new paint, over which fluttered signal flags and ensigns of all nations. At the forepeak was the ensign of the Panama republic, while at the main masthead fluttered the house pennant of the Panama steamship fleet. On the jackstaff was the flag of the United States.

Invitations to the guests on this first trip had been much coveted, and the rails were lined with local canal officials and those of the Panama republic, together with their ladies as the big steamer backed away from her berth. Colonel Goethals, builder of the canal and governor of the zone, was on the bridge beside Captain Sukeforth, of the steamer, together with Captain Hugh Redman, U. S. N., superintendent of transportation, who has overseen the plans for putting the first ship through.

Other distinguished persons included President Porras, of the republic of Panama, and his staff.

The Panama National band, and the regimental band of the Tenth U. S. Infantry played the Star Spangled Banner as the ship pulled away, but the music was almost drowned by the whistles of the steamers in the harbor.

Holiday for Canal Laborers.

To assure unimpeded passage for the Ancon, all of the traffic, including the working boats in Culebra Cut, was brought to standstill from early this morning on. The several thousand canal workers enjoyed a holiday, and they, together with villagers of all types from the surrounding territory, lined the banks at various vantage points.

The Ancon was fully loaded with the regular cargo that she had brought from New York, the cargo having been purposely left on board to give the canal a full test with the ship drawing its full depth of water.

“Free and Open” to World.

Washington, Aug. 15.- With the passage through the Panama canal to-day of the war department liner Ancon, the great waterway becomes “free and open to the vessels of commerce and of war of all nations on terms of entire equality,” in accordance to the provisions of the Hay-Pauncefote treaty.

Vessels drawing not more than thirty feet of water may now make the passage. It would be possible to put some of the big American dreadnoughts through at any time. Except in cases of absolute necessity, vessels of belligerents must make uninterrupted passage through the canal. They may not coal, revictual, or embark or disembark troops in the canal zone or in the terminal waters at both ends of the canal, within a limit of three miles.

Twenty-four hours is the limit of time belligerent vessels can remain within 24 hours from the departure of a vessel of war of another belligerent. The canal is immune from attack by any belligerents. American pilots will see that no foreign vessels make observations of the canal defenses.

The principal work remaining to be done in completing the canal is the deepening and widening of the channel through Culebra Cut, as well as excavation operations at both approaches.