The same week that President William Howard Taft assumed the oath of office in 1909, the Selig Company rushed prints of the documentary reel With Taft in Panama. Having dragged on for several years, the construction of the Panama Canal was at last drawing to a conclusion. Curiously, the film offers more shots of the corpulent Mr. Taft than it does of the canal itself. Only a handful of workers are shown at any given time; the filmmakers seem more fascinated with machinery than with men. The film concludes thousands of miles from Panama, as the President-elect attends a reception in New Orleans. Excerpts from With Taft in Panama later showed up in countless historical documentaries and TV specials.
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