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[Panama Canal]: Memoria y Planos de un Anteproyecto para la Terminacion del Canal de Panama

Identifier: SC MS 0258

Scope and Contents

The collection is a single manuscript measuring 21.5 x 15.5 cm. stored in a black paper wrapped box measuring 27 x 22 x 3 cm. The manuscript is contained within stiff card paper covers of burgundy colored paper with gilt title “Memoria y Planos de un anteprocyecto para la terminacion del Canal De Panamá por D. Gabriel M. Campo” and decorative borders. The pages are edged in red. It is illustrated with three folded plans including two blue prints: Proyecto de construccion en túnel Plano, Perfil longitudinal por el eje and one lithograph by C. Ferreiro illustrating a tunnel. The text section is separated from the board covers. It is presumed to be a first edition. The cover boards are chipped and detached but the text clean and the blue prints in excellent condition. The text appears to be an original handwritten manuscript signed in Madrid 14 December 1892 by Gabriel Moreno Campo but has a subsequent paragraph added that the text was personally presented 18 November 1893 by Mr. Moreno Campo to Mr. Hutin, who was the Director General of the New Panama Canal Company. There are three recorded copies: Madrid at the Biblioteca Nacional de España with a publication attribution of 1894 and a copy in Dresden at the Sachisische Landesbibliothek with a circa 1893 attribution. The impression given in the subsequent paragraph that the original was given to Maurice Hutin implies the two other copies were either copied by a secretary or Mr. Moreno Campo handwrote more than one copy.


  • Creation: 1892-1894


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Collection housed remotely. Users need to contact 24 hours in advance.

Biographical / Historical

The completion of the interoceanic Panama Canal in 1914 by the United States was a change to the face of the planet – the splitting of the American continents. As early as Columbus, there was a desire for a short path between the North and American continents. In the sixteenth century after realizing riches of Peru and Ecuador, the Spanish officially suggested a route close to that of the present canal but abandoned interest. Many ideas were proposed especially in the nineteenth century how to create a shortcut from the Atlantic to Pacific oceans. In 1817 the German scientist Alexander von Humboldt revived interest in the project and in 1819 the Spanish government formally authorized construction and created a company to build it. In 1876 an international company was organized and obtained a concession from Colombia to build it but failed. In 1879 a French company organized by Ferdinand de Lesseps who was successful in completing in 1869 the Suez Canal, a sea level canal, proposed to build a sea level canal across the isthmus of Panama. De Lesseps was not an engineer but the success of the Suez Canal motivated him to try the Panama locale. Work began in 1882 along the route of the Panama Railroad (1855). Lesseps and the company he organized were plagued by troubles. Finances being only one of the troubles another being the volcanic area of the Culebra Mountains – the Culebra Cut was attempted but landslides and lack of debris removal became a major concern. But the French managed to lower the peak by 102 feet by 1899. French machinery, such as steam shovels and dredges, proved to be inadequate along with debilitating diseases caused the French failure. The length of the canal is approximately 51 miles across the spine of the Culebra Mountains and there is a tidal range of 20 feet at Pacific side to one foot on the Atlantic side of the isthmus. By1899 the French abandoned work due to the shear difficulty of building a sea-level canal and disease and for several years there were negotiations by several entities for the resumption of canal building. In 1894, a new French company was formed but eventually the United States bought out this French company. Regarding this specific manuscript which delineates the steps necessary for the completion of the Panama Canal project, the author Gabriel Moreno Campo (1849-1905) was a Spanish engineer who worked on many rail, port and canal projects in a number of countries. He personally presented his plan to complete the canal to Maurice Hutin for deliberation at the Canal Council. Hutin was an engineer and director general of the New French Canal Company in 1894. In the lithograph made by a C. Ferreiro of Madrid, an interesting plan is made to tunnel through the Culebra Mountain. When the United States took over the canal building in 1903, the sea level plan was abandoned to become a lock, dam, and lake concept. It was the United States equipment (the Bucyrus steam shovels and dredges) that proved to be much stronger than the French equipment and up to the task of cutting through the Culebra mountains to make the famous Culebra Cut. The Bucyrus Company was headed by Lehigh alumni. The cement used in the Panama Canal building came from the Lehigh Valley and the steel gates for the five sets of locks were manufactured by the company of Lehigh alumni McClintic and Marshall (LU CE 1888) in Pennsylvania.


Late 1892
First date in manuscript
November 18, 1893
Manuscript presented to Maurice Hutin, Director General of the New Panama Cana Company
Manuscript awarded a gold medal by the Academia de Inventores of Paris


1 box, .25 linear feet ([1] volume, 21.5 x 15.5 cm. in box 27 x 22 cm.)

Language of Materials

Spanish; Castilian



The arrangement is 11 pages of text, one blank page and a blue print, lithograph by C. Ferreiro of Madrid and another blue print. This manuscript is one of three recorded in WorldCat. Other copies are in Madrid at the Biblioteca Nacional de España and in Dresden at the Sachisische Landesbibliothek. These two manuscripts apparently are not distinctly marked with the date 1892 as they are attributed to the range of 1893-1894.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase, May 2013.

Related Materials

“Panama Fever: The Epic Story of the Building of the Panama Canal,” by Matthew Parker. New York. Doubleday. 2007. LU 972.87 P242p

“Panama Fever: The Epic Story of the Building of the Panama Canal,” by Matthew Parker. New York. Doubleday. 2007. LU 972.87 P242p

“The New Panama Canal Company.” New York. Evening Post Job Printing House. 1898. LU 626.9 N5327

Finding Aid of Memoria y Planos de un Anteproyecto para la Terminacion del Canal de Panama
Eleanor Nothelfer.
July 6, 2016
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Lehigh University Special Collections Repository

Lehigh University
Linderman Library
30 Library Drive
Bethlehem PA 18045 USA
610-758-6091 (Fax)