A 3-cent red violet stamp issued on August 15, 1939, commemorates the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal. The vignette features a steamship passing through the Gaillard Cut, flanked by portraits of President Theodore Roosevelt on the left and General George W. Goethals on the right. Roosevelt believed that America, an emerging global force, needed easy access to both the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. Roosevelt appointed Goethals chief engineer of the canal. He supervised the construction and opening and later served as first governor of the Canal Zone.
There was a philatelic connection to the location of the canal. Some politicians and lobbyists favored a route across Nicaragua; others favored Panama. In 1900 Nicaragua issued a series of stamps showing Mount Momotombo as an active, smoking volcano. One of the Panama lobbyists sent a letter to each U.S. senator with one of these stamps enclosed. The message was clear, and the Senate quickly voted for the stable environment of Panama over the potentially volcanic environment of Nicaragua.