US Virgin Islands
U.S. BOUGHT ISLANDS
The United States bought the Virgin Islands from Denmark
Inhabitants of the islands were granted U.S. citizenship
Laurance Rockefeller gave the National Park Service a monetary gift in order to turn St. John into a national park
Melvin H. Evans became the first elected governor for the U.S. Virgin Islands. Previously, the governor was appointed by the president
US Virgin Islands – Fun in the Sun and on the Beaches since 1917.
Bucket List Destination?
If you’ve got a bucket list*, the US Virgin Islands (USVI) should be near the top of your list. This group of three (plus a couple of smaller) islands – St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix – are an exquisite destination – particularly during the winter if you live in Chicago. Or in Denmark, who sold us the islands in 1917.
Columbus Slept Here Too
As is often the case, history is not always happy or free from strife. From the earliest records, we know that the native residents – Ciboney, Caribs, and Arawaks – were overrun and sold as slaves not only by Columbus (who named the islands after St. Ursula and her 11,000 virgins), but also by France, England, Holland, and finally Denmark.
Beauty and the Beast
The islands have been in turn, a safe haven for pirates, a slave-trading post, an exporter of sugar, and home to large plantations. In 1848, Governor Peter von Scholten emancipated all the slaves, but riots and slavery continued until the conquerors left and commerce and declined and the natives’ way of life suffered.
War’s Unintended Consequences
The US purchased the Virgins from Denmark in 1917 for $25 million (in gold) in order to have a security presence in the area during World War I. In the 1950s, Laurance Rockefeller gave the National Park Service (who celebrated their Centennial in 2016) money to turn most of St. John into a National Park, as it remains today.
The USVI, in the Atlantic Ocean, are unfortunately in the path of many of the October through November hurricanes. However, during the rest of the year, the white sandy beaches, and crystal clear water draw tourists from all over the Caribbean as well as the rest of the world. Imagine coming to the capital of St. Thomas – Charlotte Amalie – in February, taking a ferry to St. John, and then sailing or snorkeling in water that is 80 degrees.
All Are Welcome
As one of two million visitors a year, you can arrive on a cruise ship, a private yacht, or a plane. You can shop for high-end jewels or native weavings. The manufacturing emphasis is on rum production, so you won’t go thirsty.
Did You Know?
- The USVI is the only place in the US where you drive on the left side of the road.
- St. Thomas has the second oldest synagogue with sand floors in the Western Hemisphere.
- St. Croix has the oldest Baobab tree (18th century) in the Caribbean.
* If you don’t, start one!
Have a centennial suggestion? Let us know!