The Danish West Indies (Danish: Dansk Vestindien or De dansk-vestindiske øer) or "Danish Antilles", were a colony of Denmark-Norway and Denmark in the Caribbean, now known as the United States Virgin Islands. Jomfruøerne ("Virgin Islands") was the Danish geographic name for the Virgin Islands.
The Danish West India and Guinea Company settled on St. Thomas island first in 1672, expanding to St. John in 1683 (a move disputed with the British until 1718), and purchasing St. Croix from the French West Indies Company in 1733. In 1754, the islands were sold to the Danish king, Frederick V of Denmark, becoming royal Danish colonies.
At times during the Napoleonic Wars, the islands were occupied by the British; first from March 1801 to 27 March 1802, and then again from December 1807 to 20 November 1815, when they were returned to Denmark.
Until 1904, there was no official currency for the Danish West Indies, which had led first to the Spanish milled dollar and then the United States dollar being used as the local currency. In 1904, the Danish-West Indian National Bank was established to provide an official currency. Rather than continue with the existing U.S. denominations or introducing the Danish kroner, the bank opted to use the Latin Monetary Union standard with francs and bits.
On January 17 1917, the islands were sold to the United States for $25 million when the United States and Denmark exchanged their respective treaty ratifications. Danish administration ended March 31, 1917, when the United States took formal possession of the territory and renamed it the United States Virgin Islands.
The United States had been interested in the islands for years because of their strategic position near the approach to the Panama Canal and because of the fear that Germany might seize them to use as U-boat bases during World War I.