The Panama Canal struck a chord throughout the world. People variously referred to the Canal as “the eighth wonder of the world,” with an impact akin to “shifting the nations on a map,” and “one of the few achievements which may properly be called epoch-making”. The endeavor, which removed enough dirt to fill a tunnel, 14 feet in diameter, through the heart of the earth, lived in the public’s imagination unlike any other event of recent memory (Barrett, 47). Yet the significance of the Canal lay primarily in its worldwide commercial value to merchants.
The Canal shortened the distances between the East Coast of the United States and these markets to the west. Through the Canal, a vessel sailing from New York to San Francisco could cut its journey from more than 13,000 miles around South America and Cape Horn, to just over 5,000. A voyage that previously took over sixty days was halved to about thirty. What this meant to all maritime merchants was that they could take on more cargo; virtually making two trips in one.