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Transfer Day Activities Highlight History


March 31, 2006 — March 31 marks 89 years since the Danish government sold the Danish West Indies to the U.S. government for $25 million in gold. The islands were then renamed the American Virgin Islands. Across the territory, ceremonies and art exhibits commemorate the day.
The public is invited to Transfer Day ceremonies on St. Thomas at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall. The event begins at 10 a.m. with the presentation of flags. Ambassador Torben Getterman, consul general of Denmark, is the keynote speaker.
On St. Croix, the Friends of Denmark will host the annual Transfer Day ceremony at the Lawaetz Family Museum in Frederiksted. The event begins at 10 a.m. and features presentations by local and Danish officials, music and storytelling. The museum is located on Route 76 in the rain forest.
A traveling exhibit on Transfer Day is presently at the Caribbean Museum Center on Strand Street and Fort Frederik in Frederiksted. The exhibit features photo transparencies of the first V.I. residents to request passports following the 1917 transfer. The exhibit highlights include a 1917 video clip taken at the transfer ceremony, an audio presentation of Transfer Day recollections from an 8-year-old girl witnessing the ceremony dreaming of eating "American apples," photography and paintings of the era. The exhibit successfully captures a significant moment in V.I. history.
Collaborating on the project were St. John artist Janet Cook-Rutnick, digital media artist Edgar Endress, Syracuse University anthropology Ph.D. student Lori Lee, playwright and poet Edgar O. Lake, storyteller Elaine Jacobs and St. Johnian Theodora Moorehead.
The exhibit, which began on St. Thomas last week and will continue to Puerto Rico, has been extended at the Caribbean Arts Museum until April 7.
The Treaty of Cession, as the transfer document was officially named, was signed in New York, August 1916. Formal ceremonies were held at 4 p.m. March 31, 1917, on St. Thomas and St. Croix. The Danish flag was lowered and the U.S. Stars and Stripes was raised. Danish citizenship could be preserved by making a declaration before a court within one year. Those not formally making the declaration were automatically deemed U.S. citizens. Approximately 80 percent of the then 2,000 island residents became Americans.

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