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29+ quotes from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914 by David McCullough

Quotes from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914

David McCullough ·  697 pages

Rating: (13.2K votes)


“To the majority of those on the job his presence had been magical. Years afterward, the wife of one of the steam-shovel engineers, Mrs. Rose van Hardevald, would recall, "We saw him...on the end of the train. Jan got small flags for the children, and told us about when the train would pass...Mr. Roosevelt flashed us one of his well-known toothy smiles and waved his hat at the children..." In an instant, she said, she understood her husband's faith in the man. "And I was more certain than ever that we ourselves would not leave until it [the canal] was finished." Two years before, they had been living in Wyoming on a lonely stop on the Union Pacific. When her husband heard of the work at Panama, he had immediately wanted to go, because, he told her, "With Teddy Roosevelt, anything is possible." At the time neither of them had known quite where Panama was located.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“But no statistic conveyed a true picture of Panama rain. It had to be seen, to be felt, smelled; it had to be heard to be appreciated. The effect was much as though the heavens had opened and the air had turned instantly liquid.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“A lie,” he was once heard to declare on the floor of the Senate, “is an abomination unto the Lord and an ever-present help in time of need.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“patience which I assure you requires more force of character than does action.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“You won’t get fired if you do something, you will if you don’t do anything. Do something if it is wrong, for you can correct that, but there is no way to correct nothing.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory or defeat.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“One had only to look at the map to see that Panama was the proper place for the canal. The route was already well established, there was a railroad, there were thriving cities at each end. Only at Panama could a sea-level canal be built. It was really no great issue at all. Naturally there were problems. There were always problems. There had been large, formidable problems at Suez, and to many respected authorities they too had seemed insurmountable. But as time passed, as the work moved ahead at Suez, indeed as difficulties increased, men of genius had come forth to meet and conquer those difficulties. The same would happen again. For every challenge there would be a man of genius capable of meeting and conquering it. One must trust to inspiration. As for the money, there was money aplenty in France just waiting for the opening of the subscription books.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“Seen under the microscope, Stegomyia is a creature of striking beauty. Its general color is dark gray, but the thorax is marked with a silvery-white lyre-shaped pattern; the abdomen is banded with silvery-white stripes and the six-jointed legs are striped alternately with black and pure white. Among mosquitoes Stegomyia is the height of elegance.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“The experience at Suez was little help. Probably they would have been better off in the long run had there been no Suez Canal in their past.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“In truth, the color line, of which almost nothing was said in print, cut through every facet of daily life in the Zone, and it was as clearly drawn and as closely observed as anywhere in the Deep South or the most rigid colonial enclaves in Africa.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory or defeat. —THEODORE ROOSEVELT”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“when you have something important to do, if there are two of you, you have one too many.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“The world requires at least ten years to understand a new idea, however important or simple it may be. —SIR RONALD ROSS”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“By the time he went to work for James J. Hill in 1889, he had survived Mexican fevers, Indian attack, Upper Michigan mosquitoes, and Canadian blizzards. He had been treed by wolves on one occasion; he”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“Later, following the funeral, he took all the family’s horses, including his own, up into one of the mountain ravines and shot them.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“The level of the Pacific was not twenty feet higher than that of the Atlantic, as had been the accepted view for centuries. Sea level was sea level, the same on both sides. The difference was in the size of their tides. (The tides on the Pacific are tremendous, eighteen to twenty feet, while on the Caribbean there is little or no tide, barely more than a foot. When Balboa stood at last on the Pacific shore, he had seen no rush of lordly breakers, but an ugly brown mud flat reaching away for a mile and more, because he had arrived when the tide was out.)”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“his recreational passion at Sagamore Hill that summer of 1903 was the so-called point-to-point “obstacle walk,” the one rule, the only rule, being that the participant must go up and over, or through, every obstacle, never around it.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“The newspapers in Bogotá, all closely tied to the party in power, the Liberals, took little notice of Wyse’s presence in the capital. That the visit was one of the utmost importance to the future of Colombia, that Wyse was there in fact to settle the basic contract to build a Panama canal, a contract that could mean a world of difference to Colombia for centuries to come, or more immediately help solve the country’s dire financial troubles, was in no way suggested.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“You are facing one of the greatest decisions of your career. You must choose between Shonts and Gorgas. If you fall back upon the old methods of sanitation, you will fail, just as the French failed. If you back up Gorgas and his ideas and let him pursue his campaign against the mosquitoes, you will get your canal.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“Bright but not distinctive as an undergraduate, he had gone to Harvard Law School and finished in the same class as Justice Holmes. But the law bored him—as it had Ferdinand de Lesseps, as it had Roosevelt—so he had decided to be an engineer, “that I may lead a good and useful life.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“We must bear the atmosphere of the hour,” the President said. “It will pass away.” And like many of McKinley’s instinctive responses, it was the right one.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“For a West Point graduate to abandon his appointed task in the face of adversity or personal discomfort was all but inconceivable.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“He always kept three books at hand—one scientific, one of classical literature or history, one light fiction—which he took up in turn, giving each exactly twenty minutes according to a pocket watch placed on the table beside his chair. In this fashion, he said, he was able to remember what he read.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“Panama still more extraordinary machines would work an even more astonishing success. The wonderful thing was that the American dredges did”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“At one point an elderly resident Frenchman told him that if he persisted with his plan there would not be trees enough on the Isthmus to make the crosses to put over the graves of his laborers.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“is vintage Bunau-Varilla: My only reply to such critics is that they have not the”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“thousand miles from Brooklyn, within ten”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“For country, science, and glory. —Motto of the École Polytechnique”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


“mendacity.” He then introduced his son to the President,”
― David McCullough, quote from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914


About the author

David McCullough
Born place: in Pittsburgh, The United States
Born date July 7, 1933
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