Back to top

Riot in Panama over the theft of a slice of watermelon claims the lives of fifteen foreigners

Isthmus of Panama railroad route Aspinwall to Panama City, 1857
04/15/1856
Panama was important as the place where American and other foreign passengers made their transit between the two oceans on the journey between the east and west coasts of the United States. Passengers waiting for ships often behaved badly and the maltreatment of locals was on the increase, especially around the port areas. In this instance, a drunken American passenger named Jack Oliver took a slice of watermelon from a stand in Panama City and refused to pay for it. One thing led to another and shots were fired. Incensed locals then attacked the crowd of foreign passengers waiting to board the ship for their journey to San Francisco. Official figures reported fifteen dead and sixteen wounded among the foreigners in the riot that Americans popularly called the "Watermelon War." (By John Osborne)
Source Citation: 
Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of Central America, Volume III (San Francisco, CA: The History Company, 1887), 520-521.

Tabs

How to Cite This Page: "Riot in Panama over the theft of a slice of watermelon claims the lives of fifteen foreigners," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/23109.