Friday marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal, the 48-mile passage linking the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. It helped move American troops to the Pacific theater during World War II and has facilitated trade between continents.
Without the shortcut, ships would have to chug more than 9,000 miles around South America’s Cape Horn.
The French first tried building the canal in the late 1800s but abandoned efforts due to spiraling costs, difficult terrain and disease.
Under President Theodore Roosevelt, the United States purchased the holdings and equipment from the French-owned New Panama Canal Co. for $40 million and embarked on the massive project.
The U.S. also paid the new country of Panama $10 million plus $250,000 per year. Later, the U.S. also paid $10 million to Colombia, which had held the land before Panama declared its independence.
Construction began in 1904, and the passageway opened 10 years later on Aug. 15, 1914, as the first ship steamed through.