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J. H. STILSON Jnr., BALBOA HEIGHTS, CANAL ZONE, PANAMA

The cover is addressed to Mr. J.H. Stilson Jnr, 1405 D Carr St., Balboa Heights, Canal Zone, Panama, America, and the green 3d ‘Roo on Map of Australia’ stamp is cancelled with a roller cancel of BRISBANE/ 12 DE 17 7-PM/ BRISBANE. It is assumed that the red ink manuscripts were added by the addressee (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Click to enlarge.

 

A second cover was found later sent to J.H. Stilson Jr. at the same address in Panama.  It has 2 orange 2d  KGV Head stamps, cancelled with a roller cancel ROCKHAMPTON/ 12 OCT 21 /  6 30/ QUEENSLAND (Figure 1A).

This paper is not about Stilson, who was found listed as an employee in the Panama Canal Employee Benefits Association Records of 1931-79, as is another perhaps related, Luis A. Stilson.  However this paper is about the Panama Canal which was another important route from particularly eastern Australia to Europe.

The Canal Zone was a 553 square mile (1,432 square kilometers) territory inside of Panama, consisting of the Panama Canal and an area extending 5 miles (8.1 kilometers) on each side of the canal. Its border extended through three of Panama’s provinces and the zone was created on November 18, 1903 with the signing of the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty. The Panama Canal extends across the Isthmus of Panama from Colon on the Atlantic Ocean (Carribean Sea) side to Balboa and the Pacific Ocean.

The Canal was constructed in two stages, the first between 1881 and 1888 by a French company, then followed by the Americans, with their construction completed in 1914. In 1883 it was realized that the tide level at the Pacific Ocean side was almost 19 feet higher than the Atlantic side, and the engineers concluded that the differences in levels would be dangerous to navigation. It was originally proposed that a tidal lock should be constructed near Panama City to preserve the level from there to Colon at the Atlantic Ocean.

Eventually with new thinking it was decided that the original plan should be modified as a multiple lock system. From the Atlantic Ocean entrance north of Colon there is an approximately 51 mile (81 kilometer) 9 hour journey to the Pacific Ocean exit south of Balboa. As an example, when a ship travelling from the Atlantic side reaches the Gatun Locks, a series of 3 locks raise the ship about 85 feet to Gatun Lake, and the ship then travels for 40 miles to the locks at Pedro Miguel, where the locks lower the ship 30 feet. At the Miraflores locks the ship is lowered an additional 52 feet to the Pacific Ocean sea level. The position of Colon and Balboa are seen in a simplified map as well as in a more detailed map of the locks (Figures 2 & 3).

 
 

From 1903 to 1977 the territory was controlled by the United States and from 1977-to 1999 the canal was under joint U.S.-Panamanian control. A 1979 treaty established the neutrality of the canal. During the American ownership, the territory, apart from the canal itself, was used mainly for military purposes. This usage ended when the zone returned to Panamanian control.

By August 15, 1914 the Panama Canal was officially opened by the passing of the SS Ancon. At the time, no single effort in American history had exacted such a price in dollars or in human life. The American expenditures from 1904 to 1914 totaled 352 million dollars, far more than the cost of anything built by the United States

Government up to that time. Together the French and American expenditures totaled 639 million dollars. It is estimated that over 80,000 persons took part in the construction and that over 30,000 lives were lost by the French and U.S. efforts, mostly by disease (malaria and yellow fever) and by landslides.

By August 15, 1914 the Panama Canal was officially opened by the passing of the SS At the time, no single effort in American history had exacted such a price in dollars or in human life. The American expenditures from 1904 to 1914 totaled $352,000,000, far more than the cost of anything built by the United States Government up to that time. Together the French and American expenditures totaled $639,000,000. It took 34 years from the initial effort in 1880 to actually open the Canal in 1914. It is estimated that over 80,000 persons took part in the construction and that over 30,000 lives were lost in both French and American efforts.

When the Canal Zone Postal Service was first established on June 24, 1904, a small supply of 2, 5, and 10 cent Panama stamps, overprinted "Canal Zone" were obtained and used until July 18, 1904, when United States stamps overprinted "Canal Zone" were received and placed in use. The United States stamps were used until December 12, 1904 when they were withdrawn and replaced by Panama stamps overprinted "Canal Zone" in conformity with the provision of an executive order issued on December 3, 1904 by Secretary of War William H. Taft.

On May 28, 1924, the Taft agreement was abrogated by the President of the United States and on July 1, 1924, United States stamps overprinted "Canal Zone" were again placed in use and supplanted the overprinted Panama stamps. On October 1, 1928, the first permanent issue Canal Zone stamp, 2 cent Goethals, was placed on sale. Canal Zone permanent and provisional issues have, over the succeeding years, superseded all overprinted United States stamps and stamped paper. Examples of Canal Zone stamps are shown in Figures 4-6.

 
 
 
 

 
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