One hundred years ago today, sailors from two nations stood facing each other as the captain of the Danish warship Valkyrien and American Navy ship Hancock officially transferred the islands from Denmark to the United States. Cannons were fired as first the Danish national anthem was played for a final time and the Dannebrog was lowered and then the Star Spangled Banner was played and the Stars and Bars raised.
It was the result of three attempts at ending Denmark's colonial rule that had begun more than 50 years before in 1865. While King Christian X and the Danish people approved the sale of St. Thomas and St. John to the United States for $7.5 million, the U.S. Congress never ratified the agreement.
In 1900, rumors that Denmark would trade the islands to Germany in exchange for territory it lost during a war prompted a new U.S. offer, this time for all three islands. But feeling pressure from business interests, Danish legislators objected.
It would be World War I and fears of Germany establishing a base in the West Indies that would finally spur the sale of the islands for $25 million in gold. While Danish politicians were split on the issue, a referendum -- the first in Denmark to include women and servants -- would overwhelmingly back the sale. Virgin Islanders, however, were left out of the vote.
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