1880 French arrive in Colon

Panama Canal Construction Historic Photo - 1880 French arrive in Panama

Wikipedia writes: Construction of the canal began on January 1 1881.  A huge labor force was assembled; in 1888, this numbered about 40,000 men, nine-tenths of these being afro-Caribbean workers from the West Indies. French engineers were well paid and the prestige of the project attracted the best of France's engineering schools, but the huge death toll from disease made it difficult to retain them they either left after short service, or died. The total death toll between 1881 and 1889 was estimated at over 22,000, of which as many of 5000 were French citizens.

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