Stack’s Bowers Galleries is going to offer a unique commemorative medal on 8th November at Baltimore auction. The 1880 medal was issued to honour the French efforts for building the Panama Canal which was actually a failure due to lack of engineering input and diseases that affected several workers. The French could not complete this project but Americans completed it after a few decades.
The dream plan was to cut across the isthmus of Panama, inspired by the successful completion of Suez Canal efforts in Egypt. The project was led by Ferdinand de Lesseps, who was also the key man behind Suez efforts. In 1876, the Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interoceanique was formed. In 1878, Colombia, which then owned Panama, gave a thumbs up for initiating the project.
The obverse features the allegorical representation of France – Marianne with two sea gods welcoming her. A French inscription translates to “piercing the isthmus of Panama.” The reverse features inscriptions stating that the medal was presented to subscribers in the canal project, in December 1880. The 17.2 grams medal has pearl-gray toning with a lot of multicolor iridescence.