Medals of the Panama Canal
by: Charles W. Hummer, Jr.
Roosevelt Medal - The medal was issued as a result of an Executive Order dated June 23, 1907, by President Theodore Roosevelt. It recognizes service by American citizens on the Canal project who completed at least 2 years of satisfactory continuous service with the Canal construction force, including the Panama Railroad Company between May 4, 1904 and December 31, 1914. For each additional 2 years of service the holder was awarded a service bar. Artist F. D. Millet, who died in the sinking of the SS Titanic, designed the medal. It was struck in bronze at the United States Mint, Philadelphia, Pa. from dies prepared by Victor D. Brenner of New York City. An inch and a half in diameter, the medal has on the obverse a reproduction of a three-quarter bust of President Roosevelt, sculptured by Millet, with the inscription around the border: " FOR TWO YEARS CONTINUOUS SERVICE ON THE PANAMA CANAL." On the reverse there is a bird’s-eye view of Gaillard Cut, steamers passing between Gold Hill and Contractor’s Hill. The now familiar Canal Zone motto "THE LAND DIVIDED, THE WORLD UNITED" is inscribed on the horizon. The legend "PRESENTED BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES" is around the border, and on the bottom the coat of arms of the Republic of Panama and the name of the recipient is imprinted. The U. S. Congress approved a special appropriation to mint the Roosevelt Medal. Of the 7,423 emblems struck, 7,391 were issued. The others were kept in reserve as replacements of originals lost by the holders.

Panama Canal Completion Medal- When the actual construction of the Panama Canal was completed, it was natural that a commemorative medal be struck. There were 50,000 medals struck for the occasion and were present on the SS Cristobal when it made the first unofficial transit of the waterway. They were to be distributed on the official transit to heads of state and other dignitaries of church, science, industry and labor throughout the world and to members of the press covering the historic crossing. (View Medal) This bronze medal, measuring 24 millimeters in diameter, featured a design suggested by Miss Elizabeth Rodman, a relative of Capt. Hugh Rodman (USN), the then superintendent of marine transportation for the Panama Canal. The design depicted a ship passing through the waterway, with the heraldic symbol of Columbia standing on the bow, long rays emanating from her head and shoulders, and her outstretched arms resting on globes of the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. On a horizontal ribbon connecting the globes was inscribed the legend OCEANI INTERSE COLOMBIAD CONIUNGUNTER (Columbia Unites the Oceans). Another ribbon was inscribed PROSPERITY TO ALL NATIONS. On the reverse, the medal carries the seal of the Canal Zone with the legend COMMEMORATING THE OPENING OF THE PANAMA CANAL TO THE COMMERCE OF THE WORLD. In addition, there was a certification in the middle of the medal: This medal copyrighted and bearing a serial number is one of 50,000 carried on the vessel making the first passage through the Panama Canal as authenticated in a certificate signed by George W. Goethals, Chief Engineer and Chairman of the Isthmian Canal Commission. Excerpted from an article appearing in The Panama Canal Review dated August 1970


The original Roosevelt Medal, Canal Completion Medal, Thatcher Ferry Bridge Dedication Medal and the Golden Anniversary of the Panama Canal Medal are all contained in a special table built by Charles W. Hummer in 1966. The table, constructed entirely from rock specimens from the Panama Canal depicts the Canal Zone Seal with the medals mounted in the four quarters. The Roosevelt Medal with the maximum of four service bars was issued to Charles D. Hummer recognizing his service with the Isthmian Canal Commission from September 4, 1904 to his retirement in August 1938 after serving 34 years, one month and 20 days with the Commission. At the time of his retirement he was Foreman Rigger and Wreckmaster for the Panama Canal.

This summary was prepared by Charles W. Hummer, Jr. from archival materials. Prepared on February 9, 1998.