The New York Times, April 15, 1900, p.26:|
QUAINT CHARLOTTE AMALIASeat of Denmark's Benign Rule in the Tropics...
ST. THOMAS, Danish West Indies, April 11.--There is no prettier sight in this region than from the entrance to the harbor, which is so well screened that its presence is hardly suspected until a ship gets here. A crumbling fort stands guard at one side near the water, with a more pretentious means of defense on the cliff overhead. In front spreads a great basin, deep and spacious enough for the largest ships, and beyond, covering the slopes of three hills, lies the town of Charlotte Amalia, the dwellings of wood, fresh painted and of all the bright colors, looking as if a big box of new toy houses had been dumped out and some one with an eye to nice effect had laid them out on the slopes where they would best show to advantage.
Ships reach the harbor along a precipitous but verdure-clad coast through a sea that must have well suited the humor of the swashbucklers who formerly infested it. The prevailing trade wind blows north, but it makes so many deflections along the hilly coast that when it strikes the water it tosses it every way and produces a chop that the largest craft feel, and that causes craft not large to do almost everything except stand on their heads.
Although the harbor here is roomy and deep, man has done little to offset the tendency of nature to slope shoreward. The several piers to which ships may tie are owned and occupied practically all the time by private steamship lines. Consequently the casual visitor drops anchor from one-third to one-half mile out, and native boatmen swarm about to gather dimes from passengers who wish to be landed.
The boatmen are of inky hue, and English is their native tongue. New York housekeepers have become familiar with the St. Thomas accent, but its limpid quality never seems half as good at home as in this region, where jargon and dialect are confounded beyond patient endurance.
Harbor impressions of this town do not suffer after landing. The neat appearance of the houses is accentuated in the appearance and demeanor of the people. Virtue in soap and water has here visible demonstration. Stuffs worn may cost little, but they get good care and look well, and the behavior of the people is as gentle as their speech.
The authorities look out for the streets as carefully as the people look after their dwellings. Street cleaners come out at daylight and stay out in squads until evening. They are women, committed to jail for petty offenses, and the penalty exacted is in street cleaning. Crime has little foothold here, but it seems that, as in neighboring islands, natives are honest enough except when they need something. When they take it, the law claps its hand on them...
An illustration of the instinctive aversion to disorder was furnished the other night when some sailors on shore leave became noisy and two of them put up their fists. Instantly the doors of saloons in the neighborhood were closed, shutters went up, lights out, and nothing more to drink could be had in town that night.
Danish Government has always been beneficent... Every child between the ages of six and thirteen years must attend school... When the law was promulgated, English had become the language of the people, due, possibly, to English occupation of the Danish Islands from 1807 to 1815. English, therefore, became the medium of tuition, with Danish subsidiary and Spanish and French optional.
One may hear fragments of all these languages in the streets. The Danish garrison speaks English. German is also spoken. Shopkeepers must have a smattering of all, because of visitors who come from different countries. All kinds of money also pass current, except Spanish, for which the natives have no use. Danish, American, and English coins are the favorites...
In the collection of customs revenues the Government is most lenient. A merchant may take out goods without paying duty until his invoice arrives, although the delay may be for a month or two, in which he may have sold the goods and sent them away. Local taxes are as leniently assessed and collected. Houses are taxed 4 per cent. of the yearly rental; other buildings 2 cents per square Danish ell of measurement. A horse tax is $4 per head, a cart tax $1, and a carriage tax $12...
A traveler in the West Indies who goes frequently ashore has no end of annoyance from persons whose self-importance is magnified by the quarantine office. All sorts of rules and regulations that even the officers themselves do not defend operate against comfortable travel.
St. Thomas has as good reason as any of the West Indies to maintain a strict quarantine, because this island is remarkably free from disease. It keeps free even without sewers or a water supply. Householders gather rainwater in cisterns and drink it after dripping it through filtering stones. House refuse goes into house vaults or into the streets, to be cleaned up by the sweepers.
In spite of this lack of system, there has been no general disease except an epidemic of smallpox many years ago. Yellow fever is unknown, and the tropical forms of malaria attack only an occasional native...
F. W. E.
The Federal Reserve Bank's estimated consumer price index shows that $1 in 1900 was equivalent to $24.71 in 2007.
The New York Times, March 29, 1917, p.17:|
OLIVER TO GOVERN OUR NEW ISLANDS
Rear Admiral Appointed to Administer Temporarily
the Former Danish West Indies.
NEW NAME VIRGIN ISLANDS
May Be Changed When Congress Establishes Permanent Government--Official Transfer Saturday.
Special to the New York Times
WASHINGTON, March 28.-- Rear Admiral James H. Oliver, Chief of Naval Intelligence, was today named by Secretary Daniels as Governor of the new American insular possessions heretofore known as the Danish West Indies, which are to be formally and officially taken over by the United States Government on Saturday, March 31, under the name of the Virgin Islands.
These islands will be in the possession of the American Government when Congress assembles in Washington on Monday, April 2, to determine the attitude of the United States respecting the existence of a State of war between this country and Germany. It is a historical irony that these islands should pass into the hands of this Government formally under these circumstances, in view of the known wish of Germany that the United States should not obtain possession of them and the fact that the Berlin Government is generally understood to have been responsible for the rejection by one branch of the Danish Parliament some years ago of a treaty which would have transferred them to the United States for $3,000,000 instead of the present purchase price of $25,000,000.
The ceremonies of transfer will take place at St. Thomas on Saturday. On the same day Secretary McAdoo in Washington will deliver to the Danish Minister a United States Government warrant for $25,000,000 in payment for the islands. While the Navy Department will have charge of the Government of the islands for the present, the Treasury Department will take over the collection of the customs and the Department of Commerce will take charge of all lights and light houses.
Just who will receive the islands on the part of the United States depends on the result of a race between the United States naval vessels Olympia and Hancock, both of which have been ordered to St. Thomas. Should the Olympia, Admiral Dewey's Manila Bay flagship, be first on the scene, Commander B. B. Blerer will represent the United States. Should the Hancock beat the Olympia Commander E. T. Pellock will officiate.
Rear Admiral Oliver, the first American Governor or the islands, will leave for his new post on Saturday. He will serve until by legislation Congress fixes the permanent form of government for the islands.
The Danish flag will be hauled down by a representative of the Danish Government, the senior naval officer of that country on the spot, and the American flag will be raised by the representative of the United States. Admiral Oliver is expected to make St. Thomas the seat of his Government, although it is understood that the Danish Governor will divide his time between that island and St. Croix.
Explanation was made today at the Navy Department that the Government of the new group under Admiral Oliver would be temporary, that is, until Congress decides as to the form and the details. It is considered likely that a civil government will be established, with the new possessions under supervision of the Navy Department, on the lines of the civil government of Porto Rico under the Bureau of Insular Affairs of the War Department.
The name, "Virgin Islands of the United States," is also said to be only temporary, and a suggestion has been advanced that they be named the Dewey Islands, in honor of the hero of Manila Bay.
After a visit to Secretary Daniels this morning, Secretary McAdoo said that the Treasury Department had not yet completed the details for the payment of the purchase money, and at the department it was said that no arrangement had yet been made for the presence of any representative of that department at the transfer ceremonies or for taking over the customs houses. It is assumed that free trade between the new dependency and continental United States will go into effect at once.
No information could be obtained at the Danish Legation as to who would accept payment on behalf of that Government for the islands, nor as to the Danish end of the details.
As yet, it is understood, no consideration has been given to the subject of defenses for any of the islands, but it is expected that the matter will soon be taken up.
see also: Bahamas News - Puerto Rico - Cuba - Antigua & Barbuda|
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United States Virgin Islands: During the 17th century, the archipelago was divided into two territorial units, one English and the other Danish.
Sugarcane, produced by slave labor, drove the islands' economy during the 18th and early 19th centuries.
In 1917, the US purchased the Danish portion, which had been in economic decline since the abolition of slavery in 1848.
CIA World Factbook: Virgin Islands
Area of US Virgin Islands:
352 sq km
twice the size of Washington, DC
Population of US Virgin Islands:
July 2007 estimate
Languages of US Virgin Islands:
English official, Spanish, Creole
US Virgin Islands Capital:
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas
The British Virgin Islands consist of the main islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Jost Van Dyke, along with over fifty other smaller islands and cays. Approximately fifteen of the islands are inhabited. The largest island, Tortola, is approximately 20 km (approx. 12 mi) long and 5 km (approx. 3 mi) wide. The islands have a total population of about 22,000, of whom approximately 18,000 live on Tortola. Road Town, the capital, is situated on Tortola...
Since 1959, the official currency of the British Virgin Islands has been the US dollar, also used by the United States Virgin Islands...
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