Living quarters, construction of the Panama Canal, c 1885.
© National Media Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
A photograph of the living quarters of some of the French workers employed in the construction of the Panama Canal, from an album entitled 'Canal Interoceanique de Panama.' The idea of a canal through the isthmus of Panama, linking the Atlantic with the Pacific, goes back as far as the sixteenth century. However, it was not until 1880 that a company was established to build the Panama Canal, headed by Frenchman, Ferdinand Marie de Leseps (1805-1894), the builder of the Suez Canal. The Panama Canal was constructed in two stages. The first, between 1881 and 1888, with work carried out by the French company and secondly by the Americans who finally completed the canal in 1914.