At the Opening of the Panama Canal


The construction of the Panama Canal, its opening to traffic in early 1914, and the Panama Pacific International Exposition, held in San Francisco in 1915 to celebrate the completion of the canal, all inspired a wave of songwriting in the United States. The most notable of the compositions honoring the canal was “The Pathfinder of Panama,” written by the military march composer John Philip Sousa in 1915. This was also a time in which American popular sheet music publication was enjoying a golden age of sorts. Songs were published with cover art and accompanying illustrations that often overshadowed the quality of the compositions themselves, most of which are long forgotten. Shown here is the sheet music for “At the Opening of the Panama Canal,” a song for voice and piano published in Washington, D.C., in 1914, with music by C. Donovan and words by Henry R. Kelsey. The song has three verses, the first of which reads: At the opening of the Panama Canal, / The people will be coming from ev’ry where; / They will be coming from the East, / They will be coming to the West, / They will be coming where they think / It is all to be the best.

Last updated: January 8, 2018