Beautifully engraved Stock certificate from the Bankrupt Canal Interoceanique de Panama Company
issued in 1880 for 500 Francs. This beautiful and historic certificate has wonderful engravings on the
document including two maidens, one from North America and one from South America,
touching hands with a ship going through the proposed canal. This is an excellent piece that
has dividend coupons attach to the side (not shown in the scan). There is also an underprint in the
background of North and South America. This certificate is over 128 years old.
Certificate Vignette and printed signature of Ferdinand de Lesseps
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
More than three centuries passed before the first construction was started. 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.
In 1903, Panama and the United
States signed a treaty by which the United States undertook to construct an interoceanic ship canal
across the Isthmus of Panama. 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.
This historic certificate would make a nice addition to your collection or a terrific historical gift for