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Since its opening, 6,000 persons have used its facilities at the 5-cent fee charged. It has been a self-supporting project throughout the year and met a great popular need.
THE BOTANICAL GARDEN, ST. THOMAS
Consisting of 22 acres of the federally owned Lindbergh Bay estate, the development of the botanical garden was initiated on a fund subscribed by a dozen public-spirited citizens and is under the direction of Mr. M. Petit as a volunteer service. Emergency allotments have aided in the work this year. An asphalt road to the garden was built and two houses (for the director and foreman) are nearly complete. Concrete benches, tables, flower pots, garden beds, and a lily pond have been installed, and 532 trees, shrubs, and flowering plants have been added to the garden during the year. A total of 1,658 visitors, including 80 percent tourists, visited the grounds during the year.
Despite inadequate appropriations, the libraries have kept up the remarkable progress recorded during recent years. The three public libraries in the islands circulated 77,661 books, which is 3.53 circuit tion per capita, the highest figure on record in the Virgin Islands and about one and one-half times the per capita rate in continental United States. In St. Thomas, where library facilities are best, the circulation rate was 4.82 per capita.
Though the service rendered by the libraries is evidently proving increasingly popular, local financial support is notably lacking. The progress achieved is largely the result of aid in past years through the Carnegie Corporation in developing a sound library system in the islands, but unless increased local support is given in subsequent years the service will inevitably deteriorate.
POLICE AND COURTS
The local unrest incident to the political activities in connection with the Senate investigation in the Virgin Islands did not cause any appreciable increase in police cases. In St. Thomas and St. John there were 633 cases, as compared with 508 the preceding year; but a very small percentage of these was of serious nature, as evidenced by the fact that only 6 resulted in sentences of more than 30 days. In St. Croix there were 391 cases, as compared with 364 cases the preceding year.
Crimes of violence were few. The total for all 3 islands was 3 cases of assault with intent to kill and 2 cases of murder.
Of a total of 89 criminal cases docketed in the district court for nil 3 islands, 62 were found guilty, 18 were acquitted, and 9 are still pending.
The Virgin Islands National Bank, organized to take the place of the retiring National Bank of the Danish West Indies, commenced operations on May 1, 1935. The special currency issued by the Danish bank had already been replaced by United States currency July 1, 1934.
The new bank has a capital of $175,000, of which $124,000 is preferred stock subscribed by the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, $1,000 subscribed by the president of the bank, and $50,000 in common stock subscribed by Virgin Islanders. The board of directors is composed entirely of residents of the Virgin Islands. Deposits as of June 30, 1935, were over $800,000, which will be substantially increased when the former bank has finally liquidated its affairs. Late in the fiscal year the Virgin Islands National Bank was designated a general depositary of Federal funds.
INDUSTRY AND AGRICULTURE
To provide a sound economic basis for the general improvement in living conditions desired for the Virgin Islands, the Government is actively cooperating with private initiative in addition to itself initiating a large-scale program for the purpose.
General improvement all along the line is evidenced by the details quoted under the several headings following.
TOURIST TRADE, ST. THOMAS
Eighteen tourist ships visited St. Thomas during the year, with about 8,000 transient tourists. Already 17 ships are scheduled for the coming year. The regular weekly boats from New York brought full passenger lists to add to the tourist totals. Remaining in port about 4 to 8 hours, it is estimated that the average expenditure per tourist in the island is approximately $5. A large share of the income from transient tourists is in the form of taxi hires for sightseeing. Low prices as a result of low local duties result in substantial sales of liquors, perfumes, etc. Sales of native handicraft are an important item.
There is a small but gradual increase in the number of winter residents. This is creating a demand for small modern furnished houses.
The Bluebeard Castle Hotel.—Formally opened on Christmas Day, 1934, 825 tourists from the S. S. Statendam visited the hotel for the occasion. The pageant " Bluebeard's Wife " was presented by highschool students, and the celebration included a formal dinner under the patronage of His Excellency the Governor and Mrs. Pearson, attended by representative people of the island. The guest of honor was Miss Joanna C. Colcord. member of the Advisory Council for the Virgin Islands, appointed by the President.
Up to July 1, 1935, the Bluebeard Castle Hotel had entertained 192 guests, with gross receipts of $16,162.75 and net receipts of $2,448.55. It opened with eight rooms. With completion of additional units, it now has accommodations for 52 to 56 guests.
Improving hotel and recreational facilities.—A new and larger hotel to be built from Government funds is projected for St. Thomas in conjunction with a program of tourist promotion. The finest beach in the island has been developed by addition of beachhouse facilities, to be followed by other recreational features. The filling during the year of a large swamp adjacent to this beach greatly improves the locality.
HARBOR TRADE, ST. THOMAS
For centuries St. Thomas has depended for its existence chiefly upon the activities of its harbor—and it still does. The relative number of entering ships determines not only employment on its docks and in its bunkering operations, but directly affects merchants, taxi drivers, truckmen, provisioners, farmers, and cattlemen. Warships, colliers, freighters, passenger vessels, or tourist ships, all contribute their quota to St. Thomas' economic welfare.
,Shipping.-—During the year, 549 ocean-going ships, with a total gross tonnage of 2,568,452 tons, entered the harbor. This is 38 ships more than last year and 44 ships more than the past 15-year average of 505. Of the total this year, 349, or 64 percent, were foreign merchant ships.
Bunkering of ships.-—This important activity showed 37-percent increase this year, when 279 ships took bunkers of coal or oil, as compared with 203 the previous year, 182 in 1932-33, and 185 in 1931-32. This increased patronage is due largely to the removal of certain harbor dues, which places the port on a favorable competitive basis with other West Indian bunkering stations. Although machinery loading is far less expensive, about one-fourth of the coal sold was loaded by hand, affording much-needed employment.
Dredging.—Incident to the filling of the Long Bay Swamp as a sanitation project, the harbor channel at the West Indian Co. dock is being dredged to a depth of 37 feet. This will prove of great benefit to shipping. Another sanitation project adjoining the harbor will permit the widening and deepening of the western outlet of the harbor known as the Haul-Over . The harbor master urges appropriations in the near future for dredging of the other main channels.
Steamship and air service.—Two regular steamship lines out of New York continue to call at St. Thomas on their way to and from the islands to the south. The weekly steamship service with Puerto Rico, with New York and Baltimore connections there, also continue. Two boats plying between European ports and the west coast of the United States via Panama Canal provide monthly service in both directions.
Weekly air service connecting St. Thomas with the mainland, via San Juan, and with the islands to the south and the mainland of South America, continued throughout the year.
BAY RUM AND BAY OIL
Exports of bay rum from St. Thomas dropped 49,735 gallons in 1934-35. The reasons for this are twofold—a decline in its general use and competition with low-priced northern mixtures of alcohol and imported bay oil or synthetic essences. The market and profit limitations of this commodity do not at the moment warrant the cost of promotion on any scale that would materially increase production.
There is, however, a possibility of development of the bay oil of St. John, which island produces the finest quality known. Its product commands a premium on the United States market, yet only a small fraction of its possible output is now produced and marketed. Government aid for promotion of this industry seems justified and is recommended.
SUGAR AND RUM
The year's greatest economic development in the Virgin Islands has been in the rum and sugar industries in St. Croix. From 1930 and until last year, the largest sugar mill there stood idle and thousands of cane acres remained uncultivated. Unable, despite repeated attempts, to get private interests to undertake the development so vitally necessary, funds for that purpose were finally secured from the Federal Government, and the Virgin Islands Co% was organized.
The Virgin Islands Co.—Two sugar mills, 3,000 acres of land, and a commercial rum distillery which had just been completed, with its 40,000 gallons of rum on hand, were purchased by the Government. Operation of these properties has been entrusted to the Virgin Islands Co., a nondividend corporation established with Federal funds, with a view to applying all profits or savings to the benefit of the people.
One mill has been renovated and operated this season, and the other is to be shortly rehabilitated. Two thousand acres of land have been cleared or cleaned, and 700 of these acres have been put into cultivation. Rum totaling 220,000 gallons has been distilled and warehoused for aging, together with the 40,000 gallons purchased. Twenty-six million pounds of cane were purchased from 650 growers (chiefly homesteaders and renters) for $34,000. For the past 6 months an average of 1,400 field and industrial workers have been employed by this Government project, which to June 30 spent $809,000 in this work of industrial restoration.
Private operators.—Meanwhile, the privately owned La Grange Sugar Co. continued to operate in the west end of St. Croix, making sugar only, while three small, privately owned rum distilleries of old repute were put into operation. Their combined production during the year was approximately 30,000 gallons.
Total sugar and rum production.—Records show the year's total rum production of about 250,000 gallons to have been considerably larger than the rum exports from St. Croix of any year in the last half century.
Dry weather reduced cane production by about 25 per cent. This, together with the increased percentage of cane juice distilled for rum, decreased sugar production from 4,088 tons in 1934 to 1,670 tons in 1935.
Two distilleries in St. Thomas exported during the year 20,272 gallons of rum produced locally. Most of this was distilled from St. Croix molasses, but sugarcane produced by homesteaders in St. Thomas found a ready market at one of the local rum distilleries equipped with grinding machinery.
In all three islands, the greater part of the land is given over to cattle raising. Most of this grazing land is unsuited for other use. Exports of cattle from St. Thomas and St. John decreased from 669 head in 1933-34 to 581 head in 1934-35. Exports from St. Croix during 1934-35 were the highest in 15 years—1,690 head as compared with 1,149 the preceding year. Prices during the year dropped as low as 2% cents a pound, at which price profitable production is not possible; but during the last 4 months the market improved until prices reached 5 cents per pound and better, with considerable demand. Puerto Rico is virtually the only market for Virgin Islands cattle.