Seaway to the Future: American Social Visions and the Construction of the Panama Canal by Alexander MissalSeaway to the Future: American Social Visions and the Construction of the Panama Canal by Alexander Missal

Seaway to the Future: American Social Visions and the Construction of the Panama Canal

byAlexander Missal

Hardcover | November 30, 2008

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Realizing the century-old dream of a passage to India, the building of the Panama Canal was an engineering feat of colossal dimensions, a construction site filled not only with mud and water but with interpretations, meanings, and social visions. Alexander Missal’s Seaway to the Future unfolds a cultural history of the Panama Canal project, revealed in the texts and images of the era’s policymakers and commentators. Observing its creation, journalists, travel writers, and officials interpreted the Canal and its environs as a perfect society under an efficient, authoritarian management featuring innovations in technology, work, health, and consumption. For their middle-class audience in the United States, the writers depicted a foreign yet familiar place, a showcase for the future—images reinforced in the exhibits of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition that celebrated the Canal’s completion. Through these depictions, the building of the Panama Canal became a powerful symbol in a broader search for order as Americans looked to the modern age with both anxiety and anticipation.
            Like most utopian visions, this one aspired to perfection at the price of exclusion. Overlooking the West Indian laborers who built the Canal, its admirers praised the white elite that supervised and administered it. Inspired by the masculine ideal personified by President Theodore Roosevelt, writers depicted the Canal Zone as an emphatically male enterprise and Chief Engineer George W. Goethals as the emblem of a new type of social leader, the engineer-soldier, the benevolent despot. Examining these and other images of the Panama Canal project, Seaway to the Future shows how they reflected popular attitudes toward an evolving modern world and, no less important, helped shape those perceptions.

Best Books for Regional Special Interests, selected by the American Association of School Librarians, and Best Books for General Audiences, selected by the Public Library Association

“Provide[s] a useful vantage on the world bequeathed to us by the forces that set out to put America astride the globe nearly a century ago.”—Chris Rasmussen, Bookforum
Alexander Missal, a journalist in Germany, earned his Ph.D. in Anglo-American history from the University of Cologne.
Title:Seaway to the Future: American Social Visions and the Construction of the Panama CanalFormat:HardcoverDimensions:280 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:November 30, 2008Publisher:University Of Wisconsin PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0299229408

ISBN - 13:9780299229405

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations                    
Approaching the Panama Canal: An Introduction                      
1. Logistics of Expansion: The Long Road to Realization                       
2. American Triumph: Explaining the Canal Project                   
3. The Engineered View: The Panama Canal in Pictures            
4. Ideal Community: The Canal Zone as an American Utopia                
5. Canal Celebration: The Panama-Pacific International Exposition                    
Conclusion: Visiting a Construction Site            

Editorial Reviews

“Missal takes his readers on an evocative and illuminating journey through the world of the Panama Canal’s construction. The book is filled with ideas and insights, and it is insightfully in dialogue with the methodology of cultural history and with the (relatively) new historiography on U.S. empire building. . . . Seaway to the Future will surely interest scholars and students concerned with the history of the United States in the world.” —Julie Greene, Journal of World History