Sydney Bacon Williamson Papers
Panama Canal Engineer
Online Exhibit & Collection Guide

View the Online Exhibit:  Panama Canal Historical Photosms00206_title2
Detailed guide to this collection

Sydney Bacon Williamson was born on April 15, 1865 in Lexington, Virginia, the son of VMI Professor Thomas H. Williamson. He was graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1884 and shortly thereafter began a distinguished career in Civil Engineering. Most notably, he served as Division Engineer of the Pacific Division of Panama Canal from 1907-1914. Williamson was responsible for wet and dry excavation of the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores locks; he also helped design and oversaw construction of the Pacific Terminal docks; and the water supply, sewers, roads and streets for the towns of the division including the city of Panama.

The bulk of the collection documents Williamson's engineering assignments in Panama, South America, and the United States, and his service on the Interoceanic Canal Board. The collection consists of the following series: Biographical and historical materials; Correspondence; Project and Planning Files; Engineering Drawings and Specifications; Reports, Papers and Speeches; Photographs; Printed Materials and Miscellaneous. The sizable group of material relating to the construction of the Panama Canal is of particular importance. Included are numerous photographs recording in detail the massive task of constructing the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores locks, as well as images of President William H. Taft's inspection visits. Many of these photographs are unpublished.