CZ159 – 1971 8¢ Fort San Lorenzo
Immediately following the period of exploration in the early 1500s, Spain began building a series of forts for the defense of riches found in Panama. The traffic in gold, pearls, and slaves underscored the importance of the Chagres River as a transportation highway for the plundered riches. Defense of the river became paramount in securing Spain’s bounty.
Fort San Lorenzo was one of the forts constructed during the reign of Philip II of Spain, who ruled from 1566 to 1598. Located at the mouth of the Chagres River, the location afforded an excellent view of approaching ships and overlooked the easiest route for marauding pirates in search of booty.
The fort’s north side is surrounded by a wide expanse of the Chagres River. A total of 14 cannons pointed toward the mouth of the river. Nearby, two great storehouses served as depositories for ammunition. Near them a high pair of stairs, hewed out of rock, rise to the top of the castle. The west side of the fortress was surrounded by a small port suitable for small vessels.
For nearly a century, Fort San Lorenzo was strategically important in guarding Spain’s richest highway of commerce, and became one of the main shipping points between the old and new world. As such, it soon became a point of interest for pirates and buccaneers – including Sir Henry Morgan, who had plans for the conquest of Panama. At the end of the battle for Fort San Lorenzo, only 30 men survived, and the castle was taken in the name of Henry Morgan.
For a short time in the early 19th century, Colombia operated a prison at the location. However, Fort San Lorenzo returned to play a prominent role in coastal Panama history during the Gold Rush. Before the completion of the Panama Railroad, the fort was part of the Las Cruces Trail across the isthmus. Gold seekers traveled by ocean vessels to the mouth of the Chagres River, where they secured smaller boats for the river voyage. Fort San Lorenzo returned to relative obscurity when the city of Colon was established as the railhead of the Panama Railroad. Its picturesque ruins still serve as a memorial of days gone by.
Canal Zone Stamps Chronicle America’s Rise as a World Power
If you’ve never collected Canal Zone stamps before, now’s the time to start. These intriguing stamps are historic links to our nation’s past. With Mystic as your collecting partner, it’s easy to own stamps documenting this remarkable American engineering feat!
With military assistance from the United States, Panama declared its independence from Columbia on November 3, 1903. The Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty was negotiated, than ratified in Panama on December 2, 1903. The United States followed suit on February 23, 1904, clearing the way for a long-anticipated canal project across the Panama isthmus.
Almost immediately, administrators began preparations for the tremendous influx of people who would eventually assemble to work on the project. Faced with the knowledge that most of the work force would be imported to the region from America and Caribbean countries, authorities quickly established a postal service to serve their needs as well as those of the Canal Commission.
On June 24, 1904, postal service was established as part of the U.S. Department of Revenue under the supervision of the Treasurer of the Canal Zone, Paymaster E.C. Tobey. On this day, post offices were opened in Ancon, Cristóbal, Gatun, Culebra, and Balboa. Railroad station agents operated as postmasters.
A small supply of 2¢, 5¢, and 10¢ Panama stamps were overprinted “Canal Zone.” Only ordinary mail was handled by the Canal Zone postal system. Mail destined for Central and South America and the West Indies was turned over to the Panama postal service to be forwarded, while mail sent to the United States and its territories and possessions were sent to the U.S. aboard vessels departing for New York.
Overprinted Panama stamps were in use for less than a month. On July 18, 1904, they were replaced by U.S. postage stamps overprinted “Canal Zone.”
In December of 1904, Secretary of War William Taft ordered the overprinted U.S. stamps to be withdrawn, and replaced them with overprinted Panama stamps. Taft’s executive order was reversed in 1924, when overprinted U.S. stamps were placed in use again.
On October 1, 1928, the first permanent issue Canal Zone stamp was issued. The 2¢ stamp featured Lt. Col. George W. Goethal, the Canal project’s chief engineer and first Canal Zone governor.
In 1929, the first Canal Zone Airmail stamp was issued and in 1941, a series of Officials were produced. On October 25, 1978, the last Canal Zone stamp was issued.