COLON, PANAMA (formerly known as Aspinwall), a city of the Republic of Panama, on the Atlantic coast, in the Bay of Limon, and 47 m. by rail N.W. of the city of Panama. Pop. (1908) about 3000, consisting largely of Jamaica negroes and natives of mixed Spanish, Indian and African descent. It is served by the Panama railway, which crosses the Isthmus of Panama from ocean to ocean. Colon has a deep, though poorly sheltered harbour, and is either the terminus or a place of call for seven lines of steamships. It thus serves as an entrepôt for much of the commerce between Atlantic and Pacific ports, and between the interior towns of Central and South America and the cities of Europe and the United States. The city lies on the west side of the low island of Manzanillo, is bordered on the landward sides by swamp, and consists mainly of unimposing frame houses and small shops. The most attractive parts are the American quarter, where the employés of the Panama railway have their homes, and the old French quarter, where dwelt the French officers during their efforts to build the canal. In this last district, near the mouth of the old canal, stands a fine statue of Christopher Columbus, the gift of the empress Eugénie in 1870. Here also stands the mansion erected and occupied by Ferdinand de Lesseps during his residence on the isthmus. With the exception of railway shops, there are no important industrial establishments.
Colon dates its origin from the year 1850, when the island of Manzanillo was selected as the Atlantic terminus of the Panama railway. The settlement was at first called Aspinwall, in honour of William H. Aspinwall (1807-1875), one of the builders of the railway; but some years afterwards its name was changed by legislative enactment to Colon, in honour of Christopher Columbus, who entered Limon Bay in 1502. The original name, however, survived among the English-speaking inhabitants for many years after this change. With the completion of the railway in 1855, the town supplanted Chagres (q.v.) as the principal Atlantic port of the isthmus. Later it acquired increased importance through its selection by de Lesseps as the site for the Atlantic entrance to his canal. During the revolution of 1885 it was partly burned and was rebuilt on a somewhat larger plan. As the city has always been notoriously unhealthful, the United States, on undertaking the construction of the Panama Canal (q.v.), became interested in preventing its becoming a centre of infection for the Canal Zone, and by the treaty of November 1903 secured complete jurisdiction in the city and harbour over all matters relating to sanitation and quarantine, and engaged to construct a system of waterworks and sewers in the municipality, which had been practically completed in 1907. The United States government has also opened a port at Cristobal, within the Canal Zone.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)