Celebrate Transfer Day

Celebrate Transfer Day

March 31st is a date to remember here in the U.S. Virgin Islands as it is known as Transfer Day. This was the day that the Danish West Indies were handed over to the United States by Denmark, becoming the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1917. 
 Virgin Island Flag

Why Did Denmark Sell the Islands?

Denmark decided to sell the islands because the colony had been running at a loss since the mid-1800s. Whilst sugar production had increased steadily on other Caribbean islands, especially in Cuba, it was in decline in the Danish colony. New technology was incapable of reversing the decline because the soil was simply not fertile enough. There was also fierce competition from far cheaper cane sugar from Brazil and East Asia, not to mention European beet sugar. As a result, the islands had been running at a deficit for years.

History of Transfer Day

The United States was interested in The Virgin Islands since the mid-1860s. At first, it was pushed forward by the Secretary of State, William H. Seward, in 1867. The negotiated price at first was $7.5 million, the Danish government accepted the sale. Due to bearing witness to an intense catastrophe the following year, and the impeachment of the president at the time, the plan was dropped. Time went by and nothing happened but the notion of a Caribbean naval base continued with the top diplomats.

 The Secretary of State in the 1900's started the second round of negotiations on price and $5 million was agreed upon. But, now the Danish took their revenge and blew the deal out of the Panama Canals. The two's relations stayed sour throughout the 20th century. America feared the expansion of Europe through the Caribbean islands which pushed the American diplomats to negotiate again. In March 1916, The United States offered $25 million in gold in exchange for the Virgin Islands. This deal was finalized that same year and the treaty was approved by the U.S. Senate.

Even though America bought the islands to establish the U.S. military in the Caribbean, the island ended up showing it was a great investment by the booming tourism industry. Today, the Virgin Islanders are American citizens and protected by the constitution. March 31st is celebrated to honor the expansion of the United States into the Caribbean. 

Remember, transfer day celebrates diversity, uplifts the tourism industry, and honors the strategic triumph. The Centennial Commemoration was slated to be a territory-wide, multi-year observation with events and activities ranging from parades, concerts, and multi-cultural celebrations, to exhibitions and festivals featuring local art, dance, music, and food. Schools have off for this day to celebrate the history of the islands. One place to celebrate is Christiansted National Historic Site in St. Croix hosts additional Transfer Day events, both featuring lectures, speeches, and exhibitions, as well as cultural music and dance performances. St. Thomas and St. John also celebrate with special events around the island. Let us all come together as one people, not just on Transfer Day, but every day, to celebrate the past, present, and future of our U.S. Virgin Islands.  

1 comment

  • Desiree Joseph

    This was so well written and informative! I absolutely love the Virgin Islands so I’m always super excited to learn more about the history. Keep ’em coming!

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