CLOSE
Original image
Library of Congress

11 Historical Photos of the Panama Canal

Original image
Library of Congress

Construction on the Panama Canal had ceased earlier in 1914, but it was on this date that the 50-mile-long canal officially opened to traffic after more than 30 years of planning, blasting, dredging, and building. Here are some vintage photos of the canal during the construction and in action.

1. An excavator at work in Bas Obispo in 1886. The machine could remove, on average, 400 cubic yards of material a day. According to the Panama Canal's website, the material removed to create the canal—approximately 268,000,000 cubic yards of earth and rock in all—was used to turn an island into a peninsula and to create 500 acres along the Pacific Coast from Balboa to Fort Amador. The rest was dumped in the jungle. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

2. Construction work in 1888. The building of the canal was started by the French in 1880, when Count Ferdinand de Lesseps—who also developed the Suez Canal—set off a blast at Culebra. Their effort was plagued by problems, and in 1904, the United States officially took over. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

3. Date unknown: An auxillary crane dumps concrete at the Pedro Miguel locks. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

4. President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Canal in 1906, where he spoke with workers at Bas Obispo about the project. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

5. Roosevelt also helped them accomplish the task at hand by operating a steam shovel at the Culebra Cut. In 1913, President Woodrow Wilson hit a button in Washington that was transmitted by telegraph to blow up a dike at Gamboa, causing the waters of Gatun Lake to flood the cut. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

6. A suction dredge at the Calebra Cut, snapped between 1910 and 1914. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

7. Progress on the canal was impeded by many obstacles, like the landslide these workers were clearing in 1913. Flooding, tropical temperatures, and mosquitoes (which transmitted yellow fever) were also major challenges. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

8. A steam shovel working at the Isthmus of Panama in 1906. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

9. Construction of the Gatan Locks in 1909. When completed, each of the locks in the Panama Canal was 110 feet wide by 1000 feet long; the miter gates, which open and close to allow ships to pass through, are 65 feet wide and 7 feet deep, with their height varying from 47 feet to 82 feet depending on their location. Photo courtesy of CanalMuseum.com.

10. A panoramic view of the construction on the Gatan Lock. Click to enlarge. Photo courtesy of CanalMuseum.com.

11. On August 15, 1914, American steamship the SS Ancon became the first vessel to officially transit the canal (though the actual first transit had taken place in January of that year). Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

12. Ships passing through the Gatan Lock in 1915—but they weren't the only thing that traversed the canal: Adventurer Richard Halliburton swam it in 1923. He paid 36 cents in tolls. Photo courtesy of Getty Images. 

Original image
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
arrow
Art
‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
Original image
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

Original image
“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0
arrow
Art
Get Your GIFs Ready for This International Public Domain GIF-Making Competition
Original image
“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0

Excellent GIF-making skills can serve you beyond material for your clever tweets. Each year, a group of four digital libraries from across the world hosts GIF IT UP, a competition to find the best animated image sourced from public domain images from their archives.

The competition is sponsored by Europeana, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), New Zealand’s DigitalNZ, and the National Library of Australia’s Trove, all of which host millions of public domain works. The requirements are that the source material must be in the public domain, have a 'no known copyright restrictions' statement, or have a Creative Commons license that allows its reuse. The material must also come from one of the sponsored sources. Oh, and judging by the past winners, it helps if it’s a little whimsical.

The image above won the grand prize in 2015. And this was a runner-up in 2016:

via GIPHY

This year’s prizes haven’t been announced yet (although Europeana says there will be a new one for first-time GIF makers), but last year’s grand prize winner got their own Giphoscope, and runners-up got $20 gift cards. (Turns out, there’s not a lot of money in public domain art.)

Not an expert GIFer yet? You can always revisit the audio version of DPLA’s advanced GIF-making tutorial from last year.

The fourth-annual GIF IT UP contest opens to submissions October 1.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios