The Society of the Chagres

There are two societies on the Isthmus which tell of the effects of homesickness of the Americans in the employ of the Canal Commission – the Incas, and the Society of the Chagres. The Incas are a group of men who meet annually on May 4th for a dinner. The one requirement for membership in this dining club is service on the canal from the beginning of the American occupation. In 1913 about 60 men were left on the Isthmus of all those Americans who were there at the time of the transfer of the canal property to the United States in 1904.
The Society of the Chagres was organized in the fall of 1911. It is made up of American white employees who have worked six years continuously on the canal.

roosevelt-train

When President Roosevelt visited the Isthmus in the late fall of 1906 he declared that he intended to provide some memorial or badge which would always distinguish the man who for a certain space of time had done his work well on the Isthmus, just as the button of the Grand Army distinguishes the man who did his work well in the Civil War. Two years later a ton of copper, bronze, and tin was taken from old French locomotives and excavators and shipped to Philadelphia, where it was made into medals by the United States Mint. These medals are about the size of a dollar and each person who has served two years is entitled to one. It is estimated that by the time the last work is done on the canal, about 6,000 of these medals will have been distributed. For each additional two years a man worked, the Canal Commission gave a bar of the same material.
The Society of the Chagres, therefore, is made up of men who have served at least six years, and who have won their medals and two service bars.

The Panama Canal, Frederick J. Haskin, Doubleday, Page & Company. 1914

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