March 31, 1917: Birth of the US Virgin Islands

 

Today a century ago the US took possession of the Danish West Indies:  St. Thomas, St. Croix, Saint John and some 50 mostly uninhabited small islands, all of which were now known collectively as the US Virgin Islands.  The US and Denmark had been dickering over the islands since the Civil War, with almost complete deals falling through twice.  The Danes realized that for the good of the inhabitants of the island, the islands needed to become part of the American economy, and the Americans viewed the islands as a strengthening of American power in the West Indies as essential to the continental defense of the American mainland.  A Danish referendum approved the transfer.  No referendum was held of the inhabitants but Danish officials reported that the islanders seemed eager for it. 

Twenty-five million in gold was paid by the United States to Denmark which would be equivalent to a billion and a half in gold today.  The US Virgin Islands remain an American territory.  The island residents elect their governor and legislature and are American citizens.  March 31, Transfer Day, is observed as a holiday.

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Published in: on March 31, 2017 at 3:30 am  Comments Off on March 31, 1917: Birth of the US Virgin Islands  
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