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In 1534 the king of Spain first studied feasibility for a canal in what would eventually become the center of Panama. While the Spanish never constructed this canal, they paved a road with stones to transport gold and other riches on mules. A New York–based company completed a Panamanian rail line in 1855. It carried tens of thousands of gold seekers until a U.S. transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869. In 1880, French companies began construction of a Panamanian canal, but the project was halted in 1887 due to hardship and disease.

In 1903 the province of Panama declared independence from Colombia. An agreement was quickly signed with the United States to begin construction of a trans-isthmus canal. This shipping canal opened in 1914 to connect ...

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