After ten years of construction and costs more than double the original estimate, the Suez Canal opened on November 17, 1869. Stretching 101 miles across Egypt‘s Isthmus of Suez, from Port Said in the north to Suez in the south, the waterway connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Indian Ocean.
In 1888 the Convention of Constantinople was signed—”respecting the free navigation of the Suez Maritime Canal” and opening the canal to ships of all nations. The longest canal in the world without locks, the Suez Canal is one of the world’s most heavily traveled shipping lanes and the fastest crossing from the Atlantic to the Indian oceans.
In 1894, a group of Americans visited the Suez Canal as part of a tour to promote U.S. trade and gather information about foreign transportation systems. Unlike the journalist Nellie Bly, their contemporary who circumnavigated the earth in just seventy-two days, the World’s Transportation Commission (WTC) made its worldwide journey in three years. Readers of Harper’s Weekly kept abreast of the trip through an illustrated series on the commission’s tour.
William Henry Jackson, the WTC’s photographer, who had extensive experience photographing American railroads and geological survey expeditions, took nearly 900 photographs en route. World’s Transportation Commission chronicles the trip through these photographs. North Africa, India, Thailand (formerly Siam), Oceania, China, and Russia were among the many places that the Americans visited.
- View more pictures from the World’s Transportation Commission collection. Browse the subject index or select a country from the trip itinerary.
- Prior to his work for the World’s Transportation Commission, Jackson photographed the landscape of the Rockies for Ferdinand V. Hayden’s Geological and Geographic Survey of the Territories. The Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920 contains thirty-one photographs by William Henry Jackson. To view these photographs, many of Yellowstone, browse the Author Index for Jackson’s name.
- In 1897, Jackson joined the Detroit Photographic Company. His negatives became the basis for the Company’s postcard and photographic view business. Many of these works are included in the Detroit Publishing Company collection. Search the collection on William Henry Jackson to view Jackson’s work. In addition to images of scenic America, the collection includes pictures of the photographer, his family, and his home.
- Read more about the World Transportation Commission in Today in History.
- Search on Suez Canal in the Cornell University Libraries’ Making of AmericaExternal collection to read articles on the canal.
- The pictorial collections also contain images of the Suez Canal including a wood engraving showing the blessing of the opening of the canal and Port Said at the entrance of the canal. Search on Suez Canal to see additional photographs as well as cartoons and illustrations of the canal.