When Denmark Sold 3 Virgin Islands to the USA


“It’s an absurd discussion,” said Denmark’s prime minister of President Trump’s interest in purchasing Greenland. However, during the World War I in 1917 Denmark sold the Virgin Islands of Saint Thomas, Saint John and Saint Croix to the US for $25 million in gold coin. When Denmark sold 3 Virgin Islands to the USA is a fascinating story.

The negotiations began already in 1867 when the United States attempted to expand its influence into the Caribbean. Due to political difficulties the transfer was delayed until March 31, 1917. The three islands commemorate the deal with their “Transfer Day”.

When Denmark Sold 3 Virgin Islands to the USA
From Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas

Related: The Danish Annus Horribilis

The European settlement
Christopher Columbus landed on St. Croix in 1493. At that time native Carib Indians occupied the islands. However, most of the native population had died from diseases introduced by early explorers by the time Europeans began to settle there in the 1600s.

The Danish West Indies were controlled by several European powers and went back and forth between Spanish and French rule before coming under Danish control in the late 1600s. In 1733 the Danish bough St. Croix from France and built a permanent masonry fort and named it Fort Christiansværn (“Christian’s Defense”), in honor of King Christian VI of Denmark-Norway.

When Denmark Sold 3 Virgin Islands to the USA
St. Thomas

Related: Faroe Islands – Grand, Wild and Majestic

Economic decline
After the 1830s, when sugar prices fell, the islands entered into an economic decline and became increasingly expensive to administrate. During World War I the U.S. threatened Denmark by a military attack on the neutral nation. Preferring a peaceful transfer, Denmark agreed to the U. S. demands and the two countries signed a treaty in New York on August 4, 1916.

Related: The Viking Mystery on Greenland

When Denmark Sold 3 Virgin Islands to the USA
St. Croix

When Denmark Sold 3 Virgin Islands to the USA
The U.S. Virgin Islands is the only country ever purchased from another imperial power. Today, the U.S. Virgin Islands are a popular vacation spot. If you visit them you can still see Danish street names as well as Danish heritage and imagine how life on the islands used to be.

Feature image (on top): St. John

When Denmark Sold 3 Virgin Islands to the USA, written by Tor Kjolberg