Saint Thomas

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Saint Thomas is an island in the Caribbean Sea, a county and constituent district of the United States Virgin Islands (USVI), an unincorporated territory of the United States. Located on the island is the territorial capital and port of Charlotte Amalie. As of the 2001 census, the population of Saint Thomas was 51,181 about 47% of the US Virgin Islands total. The district has a land area of 80.9 km² (31.24 sq mi).

In 1917 St. Thomas was purchased (along with Saint John and Saint Croix) by the United States for $25 million, as part of a defensive strategy to maintain control over the Caribbean and the Panama Canal during the First World War.

Percival Wilson Sparks, a U.S. Naval officer, designed the flag that now represents the United States Virgin Islands. Sparks married a local Virgin Island woman, Grace Joseph Sparks; when Sparks' superior, Rear Adm. Summer Ely Wetmore Kitelle, commissioned the design for the flag, P.W. Sparks asked his wife and her sister, Blanche Joseph (later Sasso) to sew the first flag. That flag was used until such time as a factory produced flag could be acquired. The flag's inspiration came from the U.S. Presidential seal. Sparks decided to have the eagle facing the olive branches (which represented peace) rather than the arrows (which represented the three islands: St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John). (At the request of the Sparks family, this piece of history was entered into the Congressional Record in Washington, D.C., on April 30th, 1986, vol.132, No.56, by the congressional delegate, Ron de Lugo.) Every year Transfer Day is recognized as a holiday which celebrates the acquisition of the islands by the United States in 1917.

U.S. citizenship was granted to the residents in 1927. The U.S. Department of the Interior took over administrative duties in 1931. American forces were based on the island during the Second World War. In 1954, passage of the U.S. Virgin Islands Organic Act officially granted territorial status to the three islands, and allowed for the formation of a local senate with politics dominated by the American Republican and Democratic parties. Full home rule was achieved in 1970.

The post-war era also saw the rise of tourism on the island. With relatively cheap air travel and the American embargo on Cuba, the numbers of visitors greatly increased. Despite natural disasters such as Hurricane Hugo (1989) and Hurricanes Luis and Marilyn (1995), the island's infrastructure continues to improve as the flow of visitors continues.

Wording courtesy of http://www.wikipedia.org/

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