Beautifully engraved Stock certificate from the Bankrupt Canal Interoceanique de Panama Company
issued in 1880 for 500 Francs.
The founders shares have printing in red on the bottom portion of the certificate and were only issued to the original founders of the canal venture.
This beautiful and historic certificate has wonderful engravings on the document including two bare breasted woman, one from North America and one from South America, touching hands with a ship going through the proposed canal below them. There is also an underprint in the background of North and South America. This is an excellent piece that has 12 dividend coupons attach to the side (not shown in the scan). This certificate is over 132 years old.
Among the great peaceful endeavors of mankind that have contributed
significantly to progress in the world, the construction of the Canal stands as an
awe-inspiring achievement. The unparalleled engineering triumph was made
possible by an international work force under the leadership of American
visionaries, that made the centuries-old dream of uniting the two great oceans a
reality. In 1534, Charles I of Spain ordered the first survey of a proposed canal
route through the Isthmus of Panama.
More than three centuries passed before the first construction was started. The
French labored 20 years, beginning in 1880, but disease and financial problems
defeated them. The Geographical Society of Paris organized a committee in
1876 to seek international cooperation for studies to fill in gaps in the
geographical knowledge of the Central American area for the purpose of building
an interoceanic canal. The committee, a limited company, La Société Civile
Internationale du Canal Interocéanique de Darien, was headed by Ferdinand de
Lesseps whose signature is printed on these bonds. A congress, the Congrès
International d'Etudes du Canal Interocéanique (International Congress for Study
of an Interoceanic Canal) was planned to take place in Paris on May 15, 1879,
with invitations sent out by the Société de Géographie (Geographical Society) of
Paris. The congress believes that the excavation of an interoceanic canal at
sea-level, so desirable in the interests of commerce and navigation, is feasible;
and that, in order to take advantage of the indispensable facilities for access and
operation which a channel of this kind must offer above all, this canal should
extend from the Gulf of Limon to the Bay of Panama.
Unfortunately for the French, the canal was a major financial failure. The French labored 20 years, beginning in 1880, but disease and financial problems defeated them. The effort lost over 20,000 men and cost over $287,000,000 or 1,435,000,000 francs. The French company was the greatest business failure of the 19th century.
The following year, the United States purchased from the French Canal
Company its rights and properties for $40 million and began construction. The
monumental project was completed in ten years at a cost of about $387 million.