[Various places, including Panama, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica: 1939]. 364 original photographs, most 2 x 2.5 inches, several larger, on forty-eight leaves. Bound in a half cloth and card stock office folder. Spine perishing, rear board detached. Album leaves slightly curled. Photos fine, and extensively captioned. Very good. Item #338
A comprehensive photo diary of an August to October 1939 voyage to Nicaragua and several other countries in Central America by way of Haiti, with almost 375 original images, likely as part of an effort to scout a new route for an oft-contemplated canal across Nicaragua. The traveling group departed from New York City after visiting the World's Fair at the beginning of August, 1939, and briefly debarked at Part-au-Prince on their way to Colon, Panama. The first short series of photos contains images of several men of the party on board and of their stop in Haiti. The group arrived in Colon on August 16, the following group of approximately twenty-five images depict scenes there and in Panama City, including several of the Canal and the ruins of Old Panama.
On August 21, the party flew from Albrook Airfield in the Canal Zone to Managua in Nicaragua. The vast majority of photos in the album chronicle time the group spent in Nicaragua from late August to early October. The first set of photos document their experience in Managua and several neighboring cities and towns, including Diriamba, Leon, and Granada. For most of September, the group traveled along sections of the San Juan River, which runs from Lake Cocibolca to the Atlantic Ocean, forming part of the border with Costa Rica. They began their journey at Castillo, just east of the lake and traveled to the mouth of the river at Greytown on the Atlantic coast. The trip seems to have taken approximately a week, and the photographs document not only the natural sights and native activities along the route, but also dredging and canal building activities of American companies once they arrived in Greytown.
Indeed, the group was surely a part of some kind of canal survey, as a second trip at the end of September took the group through Brito and San Juan Del Sur, in the region between the Lake and the Pacific Ocean, with repeated references to the "Western section of the canal route" and the "canal party" in the extensive captions. This series of images includes a particularly lively group of images documenting the unorthodox unloading of cattle in the harbor of San Juan, and a number of photos of the group's horseback journey thence to Brito.
A final substantial series of photos in Nicaragua chronicle a trip made to the eastern coastal towns of Puerto Cabezas, Prinzapolka, and Bluefields. These images include photographs of the area around the La Luz mine near Alamicamba, and fruit shipping activities of the United Fruit Company in several of these eastern port cities. The very last section of the album documents a trip to Costa Rica, where they visited the volcanoes at Irazu and Poas, and also journeyed between San Jose and Punta Arenas.
The possibility of a canal across Nicaragua has been much pondered since colonial times. Many prospective routes were planned in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and indeed, and a study for a proposed barge canal was commissioned in 1939 and 1940, the period from which these photos date. The concept of such a canal still fascinates today, as within the past five years the Nicaraguan government in conjunction with the support of a Chinese multi-billionaire proposed and then abandoned another proposal for a cross-country waterway.
An outstanding and comprehensive album with detailed captions, filled with engaging images.