Virgin islands - some opinions

St. Croix, St, Thomas, St. John, any other Danish possessions
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Virgin islands - some opinions

Post by bimjim » Wed Aug 24, 2011 2:27 pm

"The only things seen by contemporaries referring to the Danish West Indies as the Virgin Islands are more geographical, geological, and natural history in character- For example, the 1879 book 'The Flora of St. Croix and the Virgin Islands' by Eggers. I've seen a few references to the Virgin Islands as a larger group which were delineated into the Spanish (Culebra, Vieques), Danish (DWI), and British (Tortola, etc). But all the references, letters, etc, referring to the Danish West Indies specifically as a colony or a political unit are all clearly Danish West Indies or some version of that (DWI, Dansk Vestindien, Antillies Danoise, etc). I've also seen many pre 1917 letters that were simply addressed with the person's name and St. Thomas, W.I.

Initially after the transfer of the DWI to the U.S. in 1917, the name was changed to Virgin Islands of the United States of America, abbreviated to V.I. of U.S.A. In the early 1920's, I've seen some things with American Virgin Islands (A.V.I.) but this was short lived. Somewhere along the way it became U.S.V.I., and later with the change to 2 letter postal abbreviations, it became simply VI and I believe this is where it became more common to simply use the term 'Virgin Islands' when referring to the former DWI islands.

The term 'Virgin Islands' used to refer specifically to what we now know as the British Virgin Islands- if you look at the stamps, I believe that they were 'Virgin Islands' up into the late 1960's when they change to 'British Virgin Islands'.

Here's a sort of differentiation...
Danish West Indies
British Virgin Islands
U.S. Virgin Islands"


"I note an 1807 tome, with the weighty title "A system of geography; or, A descriptive, historical, and philosophical view of the several quarters of the world. . ." that refers to the Virgin Islands as "a name give n to a cluster of small isles, lying eastward from Porto Rico. Little is now concerning them; and what is known demands but little attention. Their number is supposed to be about 40. The British possess Tortola, Vigin Gorda or Peniston, Josvan Dykes, Guana, Beef and Thatch Islands, Anegada, Nechar, Prickly Pear, Camana's, Ginger Cooper's, Salt, and Peter's islands, with some others of less consequence. Tortola is the chief of the British posessions..."

More importantly, I also see that the 1831 Catalogue of the Library of Harvard University groups many of the islands into the category "The Islands of America," - could this be a clue that if you have a document of that era that indicates someone was "born in America," that person might have arrived via the Caribbean. Their "Islands of America" includes West Indies, Caribee Islands, Cuba, St. Domingo, Porto Rico, Jamaica, Dominica, Barbadoes, Martinique, Guadaloupe, Tobago, St. Croix, Trinidad. (Methinks Harvard holds some mighty old maps that may be of interest here.)

An 1805 American Universal Geography by Jedidiah Morse and Aaron Arrowsmith (are these pen names?) groups all under the general term West India Islands and then subdivides them as claims: "... such as are worth cultivation, now belong to five European powers: Great Britain, Spain, France, Holland, and Denmark." This one, BTW, calls it both Saint Croix and Santa Cruz.

I see also the 1796 Brookes General Gazetteer Abridged: Containing a Geographical Description of... which says the British have a number of islands, including "part of the Virgin Islands," while the Danes have "St. Thomas, St. Croix, and part of the Virgin Islands." Another geographical work of 1769 says "The Dane as possessed of the island of St. Thomas, the chief of the Virgin Islands..." That's the earliest reference I could get Google Books to divulge."

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