Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/St. Thomas (Virgin Islands)

1713569Collier's New Encyclopedia — St. Thomas (Virgin Islands)

ST. THOMAS, one of the Virgin Islands, W. I., formerly belonging to Denmark, but now territory of the United States; 36 miles E. of Porto Rico; area, 33 square miles. English is the language of the educated classes. The surface is hilly and the soil poor. The cultivation of vegetables, guinea grass, and a small quantity of cotton employs the scanty rural population. The port, St. Thomas, was formerly a busy emporium for the European trade of the West Indies, the harbor in which the merchant fleets assembled to wait for their convoys, and later the principal port of call in the West Indies. All these advantages have now passed from it. Before the abolition of slavery it was covered with prosperous sugar plantations. The island is often visited by earthquakes, but they are not, as a rule, so destructive as the cyclones. It was first colonized by the Dutch in 1657. The British held it in 1667-1671, 1801, 1807-1815; and the United States purchased it from Denmark in 1916. Pop. (1917) 10,191.