Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Panama, the name of the most northerly state of South America, of its capital city, and of the isthmus connecting the two great continents of the western hemisphere. The state forms part of the Confederation of Colombia, and has an area of about 32,000 square miles, its Atlantic coast-line being 420 miles, whilst that on the Pacific side extends for 650 miles, and includes the fine bay of Panama. A mountainous ridge of no great elevation runs through the centre, parallel with the coasts, and forms the watershed of the Chagres river, flowing east, and the Rio Grande, flowing west. The flat country near each shore is marshy and very unhealthy, but produces an abundance of tropical fruits and vegetables. Cotton, indiarubber, and tobacco, vanilla, sarsaparilla, etc., are exported. The chief cities besides the capital are Colon (Aspinwall), the Atlantic port, Santiago, Penonome, and Los Santos. The Isthmus is practically identical with the state, though the name is sometimes made to embrace the isthmuses of Darien and San Bias. Its breadth from Colon to Panama is about 40 miles, and a railway connecting these two points was completed in 1855 by an American company. The idea of a canal was mooted as early as 1520, but it was not until 1875 that any practical steps were taken. Four years later M. de Lesseps threw his energies into the languishing project, but the result was disastrous failure. M. de Lesseps, his sons, and several co-directors and deputies were, in 1893, put upon their trial for fraud and corruption, convicted, and sentenced to severe penalties, soon afterwards remitted. The city of Panama was founded in 1518, and is the oldest European settlement in America, but few traces of the old Mauresque Spanish architecture remain. The cathedral dates from 1760, and was much injured by earthquake in 1882. Most of the other churches and convents are more or less in ruins. Among other public edifices are the residences of the president and governor, the House of Assembly, a college, and the Convent of the Concepcion. The harbour is safe, but ships of any draught have to anchor three miles from the quay. It is a free port.