Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Degree Discipline



Many books and articles have been written about the history of the Panama Canal and the Canal Zone, but very little has been published in the United States about the economic problems created by the employment of native Panamanians and other non-citizens in the Panama Canal Zone. In addition, there is a need in what little has been published for clarification or investigation of some of the allegations made by the inhabitants of this important area. The Canal Zone is in the geographic heart of the Western Hemisphere and is often regarded by military experts as the keystone of the Inter-American System of Security.

The dual wage system in the Panama Canal Zone originated during the construction of the canal. Biesanz said: The peak of employment came in 1913, when more than 65,000 men were on the payroll. This was divided into two sections: the gold roll and the silver roll. The disbursing officer had two signs put up on the pay cars: "Gold" for the American workmen, "Silver" for those who were paid according to the tropical wage scale and in local currency. The administration seized upon this division as a convenient way to segregate the white and colored races, and extended the terms "gold" and "silver" to all aspects of life.1

During the last decade, vigorous efforts have been made by the Government of the United States and the Government of Panama to improve the well-being of the workers in the Canal Zone. In a world beset with economic, political and social problems of the emerging nations of Latin America, Asia, and Africa, the manner in which the United States faces and handles its problems in the Canal Zone will be a stern test of national policy.

The Canal Zone has characteristics entirely different from those of other overseas territories and possessions over which the United States exercises direct or indirect control. Its importance in world commerce, its geographic position, its relation to the rest of the Republic of Panama, and the provisions of the treaty under which it was acquired, all add to give this crossroads of the world great importance in world affairs.

The purpose of this study is to examine the arguments for giving U.S.-Rate workers higher wages than native, non- American or Local-Rate workers, and the changes which have taken place in the last decade.

1John Biesanz and Mavis Biesanz, The People of Panama (New York: Columbia University Press, 1955), p. 56.

Committee Chair/Advisor

J. L. Brown

Committee Member

Clarence Batie

Committee Member

C. R. Williams

Committee Member

John B. Murphy

Committee Member

Carl C. Weems


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Date of Digitization


Contributing Institution

John B Coleman Library

City of Publication

Prairie View




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