This Day in History… August 4, 1916


U.S. Acquires Danish West Indies 

Nearly 50 years after the first negotiations took place, the United States purchased the Danish West Indies from Denmark, later renaming them the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The first attempt by the U.S. to purchase the islands came in 1867. Secretary of State William Seward successfully negotiated the treaty with the Danish parliament. But the Senate rejected the treaty because Seward had previously supported President Andrew Johnson during his impeachment trial.

U.S. #802

A second attempt came in 1900, spearheaded by John Jay. This treaty was rejected by the Danish because it didn’t grant residents U.S. citizenship.

Fifteen years later, as a neutral America watched the First World War unfold, concerns grew that Germany might annex Denmark and use the Danish West Indies to launch attacks on the Caribbean. The U.S. again entered into talks with the Danish and the treaty was signed on August 4, 1916.

U.S. #4326

The islands were officially turned over to the U.S. on March 31, 1917, at a cost of $25 million. Danish West Indies postage stamps were then removed from sale and replaced with stamps of the United States.

You can own an authentic Danish West Indies stamp as well as U.S. stamps honoring this U.S. territory – click on any of the images above.


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