Obverse Design

Inscribed along the border, starting at the bottom left it says "FOR TWO YEARS CONTINVOVS SERVICE ON THE PANAMA CANAL" (note the Roman style lettering which renders the letter "U" as "V"). Along the bottom border, with a divider on either side is the recipient's name. The center of the medal has a three-quarter bust of President Theodore Roosevelt. Near the bottom of the bust in the field on the right in small letters is the name of the designer "V.D. BRENNER". The medal originally had a loop attached on either side of the top.

Reverse Design

Inscribed along the border, starting at the bottom left it says "PRESENTED BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE VNITED STATES" (note the Roman style lettering which renders the letter "U" as "V"). Along the bottom border, with a divider on either side is "No" and the medal serial number, some space, and then the years of service. The center of the medal has a bird's eye view of the finished Culebra Cut, steamers passing through, Gold Hill on the left and Contractor's Hill on the right. Above the horizon is the motto "THE LAND DIVIDED THE WORLD UNITED". In the bottom center appeared the shield of the Canal Zone showing a Spanish Galleon going through the canal.

Metal Bronze. Weight Unknown. Size and Shape Round, 30.5 mm in diameter for the medal itself.
Dates Issued 1909-1915.
Issuer United States Congress.
Mintage 7,423 total; it is unknown how many had the header removed.
Rarity Scarce. Manufacturer United States Mint, Philadelphia. Other Catalog Numbers None known.
Varieties Issued with header (no bars), one bar, two bars, three bars and four bars. Also found as a medal alone, with the header removed, and found unissued with no name or years of service inscribed.
Function Issued to recognize those who worked to dig the canal, and issued only to those canal diggers.
Historical Notes

President Theodore Roosevelt and his wife spent three days on the Isthmus in mid-November 1906, to inspect the building of the Canal. This was the first time a President of the United States had traveled outside the country while in office. On the evening of November 17th from a bandstand in Panama, President Roosevelt announced "I shall see if it is not possible to provide some memorial, some mark, some badge, which will always distinguish the man and woman who, for a certain space of time, had done his work well on the Isthmus." Upon his return to the United States, President Roosevelt proposed to congress that they recognize the Canal Diggers with the award of a medal. It was given to all American citizens who had at least two years of satisfactory continuous service with the Canal construction forces or the Panama Railroad between May 4, 1904 and December 31, 1914. For each additional two years of service, a bar was given to the medal holder. Work on the canal (under the French) before May 4, 1904 did not qualify, nor work as a non-citizen of the United States, nor did military service in the Canal Zone. This was a strictly civilian award, and if it was earned by military personnel while a civilian, was not to be worn on their uniform.

The medal was designed in November 1908 by F.D. Millet, an artist who later went down with the S.S. Titanic. Victor D. Brenner was the "medalist" who prepared the plaster model and apparently finalized the design. It is his name that appears on the medal next to the portrait of President Roosevelt. Victor D. Brenner and President Roosevelt became friends while President Roosevelt was sitting for his likeness for the Roosevelt Medal. Both men shared a great admiration for Abraham Lincoln, so President Roosevelt commissioned the young sculptor to design a new cent commemorating the 100th aniversary of Lincoln's birthday. That design was used for the 1909 Lincoln cent. Brenner's design for the cent reverse was used until 1958, and his design for the obverse is still in use to this day. The engraving on the medals and bars was done by Mr. Alva Nelson of New York City.

Bronze scrap metal in the form of staybolts from the equipment abandoned on the Isthmus by the French was used in making these bronze medals. The February 1909 Canal Record announced that 1000 pounds of French scrap had been sent to the Philadelphia Mint for this purpose. Later it was noted that the 1000 pounds was sufficient for all the medals and bars that were minted.

The first batch of 2264 medals and bars covering service between May 4, 1904 and the end of 1908 arrived in Panama on September 3, 1909 on the steamship Colon (according to The Canal Record). Distribution of the medals began immediately.

A total of 7,423 medals were struck of which 7,391 were issued. The balance were reserved as replacements for recipients who lost their original medal.

The Roosevelt Medal was also commonly referred to as the Panama Service Medal and Isthmian Canal Medal.

Population Count Per a tabulation in the a 1915 Canal Record, 3,541 medals were issued with the header only. Most of the medals without attachments probably come out of that total, but some may have had one or more bars attached at some point. Recent sales include:
  1. Auction sale on ebay on February 7, 2007 for $322.17. A bar has been soldered to loops to make a watch fob. Number 4153 (for 1908-1910), issued to S.G. Allen. This was a "lost" medal replaced with Number 6201-1.
  2. Offered for sale on ebay on September 11, 2003. High bid was $128.50, but reserve was not met. This medal was made into a custom fob with polished stones linked to the medal. Number 7160 (for 1912-1914), issued to W.S. Byrne.
  3. Auction sale on ebay on May 13, 2003 for $68.40 by an Australian seller. Loops were removed. Issued to J. Hale for 1910-1912.
  4. Auction sale on ebay on November 4, 2002 for $69.78. Nothing attached to the loops. Number 666 (for 1905-1907) issued to L. Joesph.
  5. Auction sale on ebay on November 21, 2001 for $356.76. One loop removed, other loop has one link of the chain. Medal was in worn condition, probably an F-12 (Fine). Number 2623 (for 1907-1909) issued to R.J. Harris, Jr.
  6. Auction sale on ebay on January 22, 2001 for $102.50. One loop removed. Number 3608 issued to F.H. Stratton.