U.S. #602 – During the visit, Roosevelt was photographed operating a large steam shovel, which helped boost morale.

Roosevelt Takes First Presidential Trip Outside U.S.

On November 9, 1906, Theodore Roosevelt visited the Panama Canal Zone, marking the first time a sitting U.S. President visited another country.

Proposals for a canal across Nicaragua or Panama began as early as 1889. United States public opinion of the canal was generally unfavorable until 1898, when an explosion aboard the Maine sank the battleship at a Cuban naval base. As the Spanish-American War loomed, the battleship Oregon sailed through San Francisco’s Golden Gates to save the day. The eyes of the world were on its 16,000-mile course around Cape Horn and through the dangerous Straits of Magellan. The 67-day journey clearly showed the military significance of an isthmian canal. However, President McKinley was assassinated before he could negotiate rights to a canal.

CZ#138 – Canal Zone stamp recognizing Roosevelt’s contributions to the project.

McKinley’s successor, Theodore Roosevelt, saw the canal as vital to America’s role as a global power. With negotiations underway in both Nicaragua and Panama, Roosevelt’s strained relationship with Columbia and the asking price of $100 million for the Panama venture could have tipped the scales in favor of a Nicaraguan canal. However, a Nicaraguan postage stamp picturing an active volcano that would threaten the Nicaraguan canal helped persuade the U.S. Senate’s decision. Construction in Panama began in 1904.

On November 9, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt became the first President to travel outside the continental United States when he spent 17 days in the Panama Canal Zone and Puerto Rico. His visit to the Panama Canal Zone reflected an evolution in his views regarding the canal’s role in the world. While he initially spoke of the canal in terms of a political, commercial, and military necessity, Roosevelt now allowed himself to be inspired by the romance of the project. Roosevelt spoke of the dramatic challenges in its structural design and of the tremendous difficulties that must be overcome to complete the project – a mighty battle involving both national honor and that of the work force.

CZ#150 pictures both sides of the service medal presented to Canal Zone workers.

At the end of his last day in the Canal Zone, Roosevelt addressed the workers:
“…whoever you are, if you are doing your duty, the balance of the country is placed under obligation to you, just as it is to a soldier in a great war. The man who does his duty, no matter in what position he may be placed, is the man for the job. But to do your duty you must do a little more than just earn your salary. As I have looked at you and seen you work, seen what you have done and are doing, I have felt just exactly as I would feel to see the big men of our country carrying on a great war.

Item #97715 – Commemorative cover with medal cancelled on Roosevelt’s 134th birthday.

You here who are doing your work well in bringing to completion this great enterprise, are standing exactly as a soldier of the few great wars of the world’s history. This is one of the great works of the world. It is a greater work than you yourselves at the moment realize.

Item #CNPRES26D – 2013 Roosevelt Presidential Dollar.

In the Grand Army the spirit that appeals to me is the spirit of fellowship, of comradeship. If a man was a lieutenant general of the army or if he was the last recruit, the youngest recruit whose age would permit him to serve in the ranks, it makes no difference. If he did his duty well, he is a comrade, and recognized in every Grand Army post. And so it should be with you, whether you be chief engineer, superintendent, foreman, steam shovel man, machinist, clerk – this spirit of comradeship should prevail.”

Roosevelt’s visit helped boost morale on the project as well as worker conditions and healthcare in the Canal Zone.

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    1. I read your daily messages with great pleasure. The stamps proposed are beautiful. Thanks for sharing the history.

  1. Love the glimpses into history. The artistry and beauty of the USP stamp is fun to see as related to event of that date..

  2. My cousin was stationed in the Canal Zone after graduating from West Point, in 1928. His brother, who was a NY State trooper, broke his leg in a motor cycle accident and decided to take a ship to the Panama Canal while convalescing. They lowered him over the side of the ship, cast and all, to visit his brother waiting below.

    1. Two things here. You neglected to mention Teddy’s involvement in the creation of a Panamanian nation carved out of Columbia. This also planted the seeds of division that simmers today.
      And it would be helpful if you could have offered the volcano stamp mentioned in your text.
      Now I know you specialize in American stamps, but it seems some how incomplete without this offering.

  3. ” This is one of the great works of the world. It is a greater work than you yourselves at the moment realize.”

    Another great quote from truly One of the Best Orator’s…. in the anal’s of American History.
    To think what he could have achieved if not for the assassination.

    Great stuff here. I love these refresher courses.

    1. Even more so, deadly yellow fever. But they didn’t understand the connection to the mosquito. They though that the fever came up out of the swampy areas like a spooky mist.

  4. Why does it cost 1 million dollars for a ship to cross the canal

    and the people who live near it live in desperate poverty

    Whose in charge?

    1. If what you write is true, I would say that the Panamanian government is not using its funds wisely. With all that revenue, the people should be living well.

  5. What you have done here is make stamps and stamp collecting come alive.
    Your background stories are excellent and well-researched. Please continue
    these “This Day in History”. I would love to have a compendium of these for
    posterity. Thank you!

  6. Another great lesson. Can always find some little tidbit of something we did not know or realize. It seems that President Theodore Roosevelt was a man of conviction and had the wisdom to include everyone in the plan. In reading the comments of this and many others I must still ask the question – “Will there ever be a recap of all the = Days in History – in a published form? Surely it must be in Mr. Sundman’s scheme of things.

  7. ROOSEVELT IN THE BAD LANDS BY HERMANN HAGEDORN is his story of North Dakota ranching. I guarantee it is one of the best “western” books you can read!

    I will read it again.

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