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Panama Canal Zone

Panama Canal Zone

The Panama Canal Zone was a 553 square miles (1,430 km2) unorganized U.S. territory located within the Republic of Panama, consisting of the Panama Canal and an area generally extending 5 miles (8.1 km) on each side of the centerline, but excluding Panama City and Colón, which otherwise would have been partly within the limits of the Canal Zone. Its border spanned two of Panama's provinces and was created on November 18, 1903 with the signing of the Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty. When reservoirs were created to assure a steady supply of water for the locks, those lakes were included within the Zone.

On February 26, 1904, the Isthmian Canal Convention was proclaimed. In this, the Republic of Panama granted to the United States in perpetuity, the use, occupation and control of a zone of land and land under water for the construction, maintenance, operation, sanitation and protection of the canal.

From 1903 to 1979 the territory was controlled by the United States, which had built the canal and financed its construction. From 1979 to 1999 the canal itself was under joint U.S.-Panamanian control. In 1977 the Torrijos-Carter Treaties established the neutrality of the canal.

During U.S. control of the Canal Zone, the territory, apart from the canal itself, was used mainly for military purposes; however, approximately 3,000 American civilians (called "Zonians") made up the core of permanent residents. U.S. military usage ended when the zone was returned to Panamanian control. It has now been integrated into the economic development of Panama, and is a tourist destination of sorts, especially for visiting cruise ships.

The Panama Canal Zone issued its own postage stamps beginning in 1904. The final years of the Canal Zone saw few stamps issued--those that were issued were mainly for new first-class postal rates (the first-class rates paralleled those of the United States) The last stamp (fifteen cents) of the Zone was issued on October 25, 1978, and depicted one of the towing locomotives and a ship in a lock. Thereafter Panama took over the administration of postal service and, after a brief transition period, Canal Zone stamps became invalid.

1949, Forty-niners Arriving at Chagres

1949, Journey by Bungo to Las Cruces

1949, Las Cruces Trail to Panama

1949, Departure for San Francisco


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