Last modified: 2021-08-25 by rob raeside
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U.S. Governor of the Panama Canal Zone
by Robert H. Sprague, 7 January 1999
This is the flag of the U.S. Governor of the Panama Canal Zone
used for official functions. As you will note below, it ceased to
exist following the inception of the Panama Canal Treaties in
To the inhabitants of the 50-mile-long, ten-mile-wide former Panama Canal Zone, the Seal of the Panama Canal Zone had been the equivalent of a state seal of one of the states of the United States. The Canal Zone seal had been commonly displayed on arm patches of the Canal Zone Police, on official cars, on buildings, on official documents and on the Governor's flag. Until relinquished by the United States to Panama through the Torrijos-Carter Panama Canal Treaty in 1979, the Canal Zone had operated under total U.S. sovereignty. While not a possession of the U.S., the United States' control -- per the Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty with the Republic of Panama -- had been in perpetuity. This changed with the agreement to turn over all U.S. holdings to the Republic of Panama over a 20-year period beginning in 1980. Along with the United States flag, this flag or modifications of it (the Canal Zone Schools Reserve Officers Training Corps used a flag with a modern-day ship traversing the Canal), was flown at official events the Canal Zone governor attended, and on the government-owned Panama Line steamships when the governor was traveling.
Former Canal Zone Governor Davis and Gaillard Hunt, a former State Department official, were involved in the conception of the design, and some characteristics were inherited from the French canal builders. In 1905, Governor Davis chose to give the seal an interoceanic canal character, because of the United States' task to create a canal and "join the seas for the benefit of mankind. " He adopted a motto expressive of that idea.
In 1905, Tiffany and Company submitted several designs for the seal to the Department of State and the Isthmian Canal Commission. On Gaillard Hunt's recommendation, one was adopted the following year after the Commission chairman changed the original word "earth" to "land"and made the sails of the Spanish galleon smaller. Tiffany's color design for the seal, consisted only of a shield with a ribbon below. The Spanish galleon passing through the Canal in the lower part of the shield was brown and flew an orange-and-white flag. The banks of the Canal were brown, with green grass, and the water was blue, showing a yellow-gold reflection from the slightly .orange sky. Below was a light-blue ribbon bearing the motto "The Land Divided; The World United" in metallic-gold letters.
President Woodrow Wilson in 1915 issued an executive order establishing that the Governor of the Panama Canal should have a distinctive flag, bearing the seal, for use in his official capacity. His executive order gave the first officially published description of the seal: "The seal consists of a shield, showing in base a Spanish galleon of the Fifteenth Century under full sail coming on between two high banks, all purpure, the sky yellow with the glow of sunset; in the chief are the colors of the arms of the United States. Under the shield is the motto: 'The land divided; the world united!'" The seal was further modified in 1956.
Following the application of the Panama Canal Treaty with Panama in 1979 the office of the Governor of the Canal Zone ceased to exist; the Seal of the Canal Zone and the flag of the governor became obsolete.
Robert Sprague, 7 January 1999
A small note released by Radio Panama on 8 June 2005 confirms
what we have already available here. The note gives the dates of
use of the flag as: 8 June 1915 - 30 September 1979.
Ivan Sache, 9 June 2005