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What T. R. Took: The Economic Impact of the Panama Canal, 1903–1937

  • NOEL MAURER (a1) and CARLOS YU (a2)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 September 2008

The Panama Canal was one of the largest public investments of its time. In the first decade of its operation, the canal produced significant social returns for the United States. Most of these returns were due to the transportation of petroleum from California to the East Coast. The United States also succeeded in leveraging the threat of military force to obtain a much better deal from the Panamanian government than it could have negotiated otherwise.

“I took the Isthmus.” President Theodore Roosevelt, 1904

“Why, it's ours, we stole it fair and square.” Senator Samuel Hayakawa, 1977

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Calvin Crumbaker . “The Panama Canal and the West.” The Journal of Business of the University of Chicago 2, no. 2 (1929): 151–76.

Peter Hains . “An Isthmian Canal from a Military Point of View.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 17 (May 1901): 112.

Roscoe Hill . “The Nicaraguan Canal Idea to 1913.” Hispanic American Historical Review 28, no. 2 (1948): 197211.

Saif Mohammed , & Jeffrey Williamson . “Freight Rates and Productivity Gains in British Tramp Shipping, 1869–1950.” Explorations in Economic History 41, no. 2 (2004): 172203.

Arthur Rockwell . “The Lumber Trade and the Panama Canal, 1921–1940.” The Economic History Review 24, no. 3 (1971): 445–62.

Gerald Wheeler . “The United States Navy and the Japanese 'Enemy,' 1919–1931.” Military Affairs 21, no. 2 (1957): 6174.

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The Journal of Economic History
  • ISSN: 0022-0507
  • EISSN: 1471-6372
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-economic-history
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