Today in History: Panama Canal

Today in History–September 7–the Library of Congress features the Panama Canal. On this date in 1977 U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Panamanian Chief of Government Omar Torrijos signed the Panama Canal Treaty and Neutrality Treaty, which officially authorized the transfer of the canal’s authority from the United States to the Panama Canal Authority on December 31, 1999. Find out more by visiting the Today in History section and reviewing the Panama Canal timeline below. Then click the links below to access more primary sources about how the canal was built and resources related to Panama.


  • 1889: The French abandon an unsuccessful attempt to build a canal through Panama connecting the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans.
  • June 19, 1902: The U.S. Senate passes the Spooner bill, authorizing the government to build a canal through Panama.
  • January 1903: The Columbian senate fails to ratify The Hay-Herrán Treaty, which would have provided the U.S. with the land and rights to build a canal through Panama.
  • November 1903: A revolution in Panama, aided by the U.S., results in Panamanian independence from Columbia and the establishment of the Republic of Panama.
  • February 23, 1904: Panama grants the U.S. control over the Panama Canal zone for $10 million.
  • May 4, 1904: The U.S. acquires French property relating to the canal for $40 million. Construction begins the same year.
  • November 1906: President Theodore Roosevelt travels to Panama, becoming the first U.S. president to travel abroad while in office.
  • August 15, 1914: The Panama Canal is officially opened.
  • September 7, 1977: U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Panamanian Chief of Government Omar Torrijos signed the Panama Canal Treaty and Neutrality Treaty

Panama Canal maps

Panama Canal images

Panama Canal song recordings

Panama Canal books

Select newspaper articles

More Panama Canal historical newspaper coverage

Manufacturer and Builder articles

More magazine articles

  • “The Panama Canal” North American Review Volume 131, Issue 284, July 1880
  • “Recollections of the Panama Canal Congress” North American Review Volume 156, Issue 435, February 1893
  • “A Word in Favor of the Panama Canal” The Century Volume 57, Issue 3, Jan 1899


Modern-day U.S. legislation related to the Panama Canal

Panama Canal Authority

World Spotlight: Panama