A Fine Early 20thC 6" Terrestrial Table Globe 'The Panama Canal Route Globe', Published by George Philip & Son Ltd, London

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Origin: English
Period: Early Twentieth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: 1914-20
Height: 11 inches
Diameter: 6 inches


The beautifully proportioned six-inch terrestrial globe with uncalibrated brass half meridian on a turned ebonised base, composed of twelve printed gores, depicting the steamship routes of the Panama Canal on pea green oceans, the key conduit for international maritime trade. The Panama Canal opened in 1914, and Kenya remains ‘British East Africa’ on the globe so we can date the piece accurately to a six year period between 1914 and 1920.

In good, clean and attractive condition with the globe spinning easily and the paper with a legible surface though with some wear, mostly commensurate with age, with some scratching noted.

The history of the Panama Canal goes back to 16th century. After realising the riches of Peru, Ecuador, and Asia, and counting the time it took the gold to reach the ports of Spain, it was suggested c.1524 to Charles V, that by cutting out a piece of land somewhere in Panama, the trips would be made shorter. In 1534 a Spanish official suggested a canal route close to that of the now present canal. Later, several other plans for a canal were suggested, but no action was taken. Then, in the early 19th century the books of the German scientist Alexander von Humboldt revived interest in the project, and in 1819 the Spanish government formally authorized the construction of a canal and the creation of a company to build it. The discovery of gold in California in 1848 and the rush of would-be miners stimulated America’s interest in digging the canal and in 1880 a French company was organised by Ferdinand Marie de Lesseps, the builder of the Suez Canal. De Lesseps proposed a sea level canal through Panama where time and mileage would be dramatically reduced when travelling from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean or vice versa. The United States and the new state of Panama signed the Hay-Bunau-Varilla treaty, by which the United States guaranteed the independence of Panama and secured a perpetual lease on a 10-mile strip for the canal. Panama was to be compensated by an initial payment of $10 million and an annuity of $250,000, beginning in 1913. This strip is now known as the Canal Zone.

British publishing house George Philip & Sons was founded in 1834 in Liverpool by George Philip (1800-1882) primarily as a publisher of maps and atlases and celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1984.  In 1902 Philip ventured into globe manufacture, facilitated by the firm's establishment of the London Geographical Institute, a large factory for map, atlas, and globe production. Some of its well-known publications are the Philip International Atlas and A Philip Management Planning Atlas.

One could see this very handsome globe spinning on the desktop of a portly shipping magnate, with the tick tock of his hunter pocket watch and the smoke from his cigar gently emanating around the room…

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