The earliest evidence of inhabitants in the islands that make up the U.S. Virgin Islands dates to about 1100 AD, with successive habitation by Ciboney, Arawak, and Carib tribes. Christopher Columbus first came upon the islands during his 2nd voyage in 1493, landing at what is now known as Salt River Bay on St. Croix. Short-lived settlements on St. Croix by Spain, the Netherlands, the Knights of Malta, Great Britain, and France eventually gave way to long-term colonization by Denmark during the early 1770s. Denmark had already established colonies on St. Thomas and St. John during the mid-1600s and, with the addition of St. Croix, the group of islands formally became known as the Danish West Indies.
During the early days of World War I, the United States took a keen interest in the Danish West Indies because of their strategic location and the possibility of the islands falling under control of Germany. Denmark agreed to sell the islands to the United States at the price of $25 million and, on March 31, 1917, the Danish West Indies were transferred to the United States, becoming the U.S. Virgin Islands.
This photobook presents more than 300 scenic views of the U.S. Virgin Islands over a span of 115 years – 1900 to 2014. Arnold begins with a few photos from the U.S. Library of Congress that showcase the islands from the early 1900s (before they were transferred from Danish to American rule) to the early 1940s (on the eve of America’s entry into World War II). Photos from the 1950s and 1960s are more personal, because most were taken by Arnold’s great uncle Desir Monsanto and because they bring back fond memories of his childhood years growing up on St. Thomas. Beginning with the 1970s, most of the photos were taken by Arnold, with some taken by other family members. The chapters on the 1980s and 1990s include images of the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and Hurricane Marilyn in 1995.
The more recent photos, from 1997 through 2014, provide colorful visual tours of St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix, highlighting the differences among the islands. St. Thomas is the active commercial center with the hustle and bustle of visiting cruise ships and resort hotels nestled near white sand beaches. St. John is home to the Virgin Islands National Park with its many beautiful, unspoiled beaches, untouched green hillsides, and historic sugar plantation ruins. St. Croix is, in many ways, the cultural center with historic Danish forts near the waters edge of the towns on both ends of the island, remnants of sugar plantations, active rum distilleries, and the place where slavery was formally abolished in the Danish West Indies.
Overall, the range of photos highlights the islands, both as they were long ago and as they are today, making this book a great souvenir for anyone who wants a keepsake of a treasured visit to the U.S. Virgin Islands or of a fulfilling lifetime there.