Ohio History Journal



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    "Uncle Sam digging under the influence of the Sons of Ohio at the right

    place." So ran a toast proposed at the twenty-second annual banquet of

    the Cincinnati Commercial Club at the Queen City Club on November 13,

    1902. The reference was to the role Ohioans had played in the decision

    of the United States to construct an interoceanic canal in Panama, and

    the man who offered the toast was in a position to know whereof he spoke.

    He was Philippe Bunau-Varilla, a French engineer who had served the

    De Lesseps enterprise in Panama in the 1880's and, when the French ven-

    ture failed, had kept faith with the project and eventually turned to the

    United States to rescue it. His speech-making and lobbying activities in

    the United States in 1901 and 1902 were legend.1 And from that night he

    would go on to participate in the Panama revolution of 1903, become

    Panama's first minister to the United States, and negotiate the treaty

    under which the United States secured the right to construct the Panama


    Bunau-Varilla's tribute was not limited to Senator Mark Hanna, who,

    everyone knew, had successfully led the fight for the selection of the

    Panama route in the United States Senate the preceding June, but included

    a large number of Ohioans who played important, though less publicized,

    parts in Panama's victory. Moreover, this was not Bunau-Varilla's first

    visit to Cincinnati; he had been there in January 1901, when, at the invi-

    tation of three Cincinnati businessmen, he launched his crusade in behalf

    of the Panama route. It was these Cincinnatians and the many Ohioans

    whom he met between January and April 1901, to whom he directed his

    toast, and they included the following: Edward Goepper, Cincinnati in-

    dustrialist; Harley T. Procter, of Procter and Gamble, Cincinnati; Jacob

    G. Schmidlapp, president of Cincinnati's Union Savings Bank and Trust

    Company; William Watts Taylor, president of the Rookwood Pottery

    Company of Cincinnati; William Worthington, Cincinnati attorney; Lucien

    Wulsin, president of the Baldwin Piano Company of Cincinnati and Chi-

    cago; Major William Henry Bixby, A. O. Elzner, and G. W. Kittredge,

    engineers and members of the Engineers Club of Cincinnati; Senator