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Main Street: The Stores and Their Proprietors, Part Two

  • Broadcast in Culture
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Join us as we continue our stroll down the middle section of Main Street, also known by its Danish name, Dronningens Gade.

First, a brief history Saint Thomas, particularly its capital city of Charlotte Amalie: After it became a free port, the island experienced palmy days during the second half of the 18th century as a regional shipping center. A significant amount of exchange of goods took place via the large merchant houses along Dronningens Gade.

Shipping from Denmark fluctuated heavily along with world economic trends. Between 1755 and 1838 an average of 53 expeditions per year were sent from the home country to the Danish West Indies. Almost every ship took a direct course across the Atlantic, while just a very few sailed along the triangular route.

After the British occupations of the islands ended in 1815, their trade and shipping soon prospered again. Partly thanks to the intense traffic to and from the former Spanish and Portuguese colonies in South America, which achieved freedom around 1820, partly due to the increasing trade and shipping with the United States, further promoted by the commercial treaty which was signed by the 2 countries in 1826.

However, the decisive breakthrough for the port came when the British post packet boats began to put in to Saint Thomas from 1835. It was simply the most conveniently situated Caribbean harbor for ships coming from Europe, and a very well equipped port with floating dock, repairing shops, lighthouses, bunker facilities, etc. From 1839 onwards steamships made their entry with a vengeance, because the British Royal Mail from that year onwards began to send its many post steamers directly from Southampton to Saint Thomas. The Danish harbor thus became the center of the Royal Mail’s extensive activities in the Caribbean. Soon bunker coal became one of the harbor’s most important products.