PRINT May 1971

The Panama Canal and Some Other Works of Work

IN APRIL OF 1882 Oscar Wilde visited Leadville, Colorado, then at the peak of its silver boom. He was taken down into the mine, opened a new lode—which the men named “The Oscar”—and presented with the silver drill he had used. The whole affair must have had a charming mutual irony for audience and V. I. P. alike. At the time the French were making a frantic but fruitless attempt to build a Panama Canal. The Transcontinental Railroad had been in operation for thirteen years: Wilde surely used it. Civil engineering in general was going strong, although it still had a walnut-panelled tweediness about it that recalls, for instance, Whistler’s father “building” the Moscow-St. Petersburg railway and bringing the family along.

Indeed, one suspects that it was largely because “Silver Dollar,” Tabor’s Matchless Mine was a silver mine that Wilde revelled in it; an iron mine would probably not have

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