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Pedro Miguel Locks, photograph by Gordon Panoramic Photo Co., ca. 1913

The Pedro Miguel Locks were the smallest of three sets of locks constructed for the Panama Canal, so that ships could navigate between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Engineers helped persuade Congress to choose Panama as the canal site, arguing that the route would be shorter and require fewer locks than a canal in Nicaragua.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Pedro Miguel Locks

Creating the Panama Canal

Congress was central to creating the Panama Canal, one of the Progressive Era’s furthest-reaching strategic, trade, and technological achievements. In the 1890s Congress investigated potential routes for a canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, deeming it essential for commerce and defense. After Congress authorized the purchase of a canal project initiated by France on the Isthmus of Panama, the Senate approved a treaty to acquire the Canal Zone in 1904. Appropriating $375 million for construction, Congress established a commission to oversee the project, which was completed in 1914.