President Theodore Roosevelt (seated, center) sits at the controls of an American steam shovel at the Culebra Cut site of the Panama Canal construction zone in November 1906. This historic image was published originally as a stereoview card by Underwood & Underwood, and has been reprinted in David McCullough's bestseller, The Path Between the Seas (1977) as well as such important reference works as the World Book Encyclopedia (1970 edition) and The Life History of the United States, Vol. 9 (1964).
The events behind the photograph are important in two respects. First, it was the first time in American history that a President visited a foreign country while in office. Second, the cut itself involved the massive removal of millions of cubic yards of rock and earth 300 feet high and wide, along a nine-mile stretch, that was an incredible feat of engineering in its day. So impressed was he that President Roosevelt reported his observations in a message to Congress the following month, on Dec. 17, 1906.
The connection to our family is the Clyde E. Pring, son of John R. and Martha Ellen (Perry) Pring of Shawnee, OK. Clyde was employed as a boiler maker specialist on the Panama Canal project for many years. A white arrow points to Clyde, who stands third from right, in a light hat and dark jacket. Clyde was so proud of this visual link with President Roosevelt and monumental effort that he circled his face in a personal copy of the World Book and signed his name in the margin.
Among other books that contain this photograph are TR: The Last Romantic, by H.W. Brooks; Theodore R: A Strenuous Life, by Kathleen Dalton; and The Canal Builders: Making America's Empire at the Panama Canal, by Julie Greene.
We hope to learn more about Clyde and his great work in Panama in the future. If you know of other books, news media articles, brochures or pamphlets where this photograph also has been published, please contact us as we hope to maintain a comprehensive list.
Copyright © 2005, 2010 Mark A. Miner