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A collaborative installation by

Edgar Endress, Janet Cook-Rutnik and Lori Lee.
TRANSFER PROJECT has been funded by a:
University of the Virgin Islands Cultural Award grant
and in part by the VI Council on the Humanities,
the VI Council on the Arts and
the National Endowment for the Arts.
Special thanks to: Edgar Lake, Landmarks Society, David Knight,
Dr. Gilbert Sprauve, Candia Atwater and Sgt. Maj. Leroy Mars,
Corp. Charles and the Girls and Boys of the award winning Eudora
Kean High School ROTC Drill Teams.

In the Caribbean region, migration is, and always has been, a way of
life. Migrations have been critical for shaping the mental landscapes
of the local populations in the past and present. This multifaceted project explores varying degrees of transhumance, including temporary
tourists, short-term and long-term migrations, and permanent migrations both legal and illegal.
When the Danish first occupied the islands that became the Danish West Indies, the Native Taino population was critically diminished,
choosing to flee the islands to escape the Europeans who killed and
enslaved them. Danish occupation brought Dutch, Danish, Moravian,
French, Irish, and Scottish overseers, planters, missionaries, families,
and free and enslaved Africans. Continuous migration, both voluntary
and forced, shaped the identities of the Virgin Islands communities.
This migration process continues with unabated legal and illegal migration from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, other Caribbean islands,
China, and the Middle East. Each year millions of tourists temporarily
migrate to and from the islands on their quest for recreation. Before
traveling to the U.S. Virgin Islands, tourists see brochures of non-peopled landscapes. The main purpose of our project is to return focus to
the people of the Virgin Islands, to their history, culture, and heritage,
which are interwoven with threads of migrations.
This project highlights the visual and cultural landscape of the Virgin Islands in the era preceding the transfer and shortly thereafter,
through a selection of images of people and oral histories of people
that composed Virgin Islands society in the early twentieth century,
and the historical memory of the event that has been passed on to
later generations. Dr. Sprauve likened the images of the local people
witnessing the event in Peppino Mabgravitte’s Transfer Day mural
at Government House to ghosts. In this sense, the local community
were liminal observers to an event in which they had no active political role. In simulation of this, life size images of local inhabitants have
been transferred onto a gauzy fabric and they serve as witnesses to

the Transfer and the consequent changes that migration wrought. Unlike their still life counterparts in the painting, these individuals are in
motion, signifying that on a local level the individuals were engaged
in active transfer of themselves from one location to another, simultaneously on the outskirts of the political arena yet at the center of
engaging in local social practices, such as travel, that shaped and
were shaped by the Transfer event.
Transfer Project is a contemporary art and cultural history project that
embraces migration in the Caribbean while spotlighting emigration
that took place around the time of the Danish Transfer of the Virgin
Islands to the United States on March 31, 1917. The art exhibitions
utilize video, installation, photography and oral history to reconstruct
the event. The event is examined and fleshed out with the lived experience of individuals who experienced it. The migration process was
initiated long before the transfer of the islands, yet the transfer initiated a change in status that changed the formal emigration procedures,
which are preserved in the form of photo identification cards that were
archived by the United States in the National Archives.
On the second floor of the National Archives II, in College Park, Maryland are a series of books that catalogue every item within the archive,
which is organized by place. The Virgin Islands are assigned to Record Group 55. Within this group are a series of passport applications
for individuals and families who desired to travel from the U.S. Virgin
Islands to the continental United States from 1918 to 1945. Archives
serve as carefully constructed warehouses of memory. In this case,
the memory is constructed from the perspective of the United States
government. What is lacking is the experience of the documented
events from multiple vantage points. Oral histories, in the form of narratives, are alternative repositories of personal and collective memories. We recontextualize photo identification card images from the
National Archives to consider their multiple meanings.

This recontextualization of the images provides a resonant description which challenges the nature of an event and highlights its reality
as a process that is an accumulation of time before and since the
event. Different voices emphasize the multifaceted nature of an event,
which has different meanings for each individual. For Miss Meada,
(Andromeada Keating Titley), the Transfer evoked memories of red
American apples, a commodity that was given to children on that day
and which became more common after the Transfer. The disconnect
between the Danish past and American present were highlighted in
her recollection of the singing of the Danish national anthem and the
silence of the local community when the band played the American
national anthem. For Aunt Sula (Ursula Krigger), the Transfer was
remembered in terms of family connections, as an occasion where
her brother played in the Naval band during the celebration. The significance of the event in her eyes was the consequent changes in the
educational system initiated by the Americans. The historical event of
Transfer Day is a snapshot that is created from the continuous processes of time and memory. Through narrative and archives the event
is carded, combed, and woven into the fabric of historical memory of
Transfer Day in the United States Virgin Islands.
Our project has both artistic and historical elements. The historical
goal of the Transfer Project is to reconstitute some of the histories

of individuals and families in the U. S. Virgin Islands who applied for
travel passports, both those who returned to the island and those who
did not. We want to trace the trajectories of the passport applicants—
what are their stories before they applied for the passports and what
happened to them, and their descendants, afterward? The goal is to
have the greatest public knowledge of the project possible, to incorporate as many voices as possible. We want to reframe the archive
created by colonial entities by shifting people from the role of object
to subject. This puts Virgin Islanders back in control of their own histories, returning these narratives where they belong, to the U.S. Virgin Islands. The end result incorporates the histories, essays, and
art, into a book for Virgin Islanders regarding the historical moment
of transfer and the processes that it initiated from the perspective of
Virgin Islanders. This book is an initial step toward that goal and it will
be expanded as research continues. To counteract the exclusivity of
access to information, which was an important reason for the initiation of this project, these documents, essays, and documentation of
art will be made available on the web with open access to everyone
Note: This project was inspired by David Knight’s research, which
resulted in a publication of data from the passport applications he
located in the National Archive.



Transfer Project

documentation 2005/09

Photographs Passports from 1919
Transfer to Silk
(24 x 30 inc)

“Deer/donkey” explores the origins and distribution of a mythical creature—a hybrid of local deer and donkey populations. Both deer and donkeys were brought to
the Virgin Islands as a result of colonization, to serve specific needs of colonists.
The deer and donkeys serve as metaphors for different groups of people who came
to the islands historically and the unpredictable results of this cohabitation. The
colonists are gone but the deer and donkey remain, surviving periodic attempts
to eradicate them because of their impact on indigenous flora and fauna. Yet they
remain because they belong.
Images of the deer/donkey are situated in the center room of the gallery which is
set up in a way that recalls the Danish West Indian parlor room in the era of Transfer. Metaphors of migration are entangled in the details of the wallpaper hung in
this room. Passport images of Virgin Island travelers are also revealed here. Their
presence in this room, also established by creating a foundation of books covered
in prints of contemporary passports beneath the table, emphasizes that they are
the ancestors who establish a historical foundation for many Virgin Islanders of the
present. The circular frames of the deer/donkey images on the opposite wall recall
ship portals, creating a dialogue between the travelers and the material manifestations of colonization.

Because of their long history of geographic isolation, the U.S. Virgin
Islands are home to few native terrestrial mammals. Eleven species
of non-native mammals have established feral or free-ranging populations, including the Donkey (Equus asinus) and White-tailed Deer
(Odocoileus virginianus). Donkeys were used extensively during the
Danish plantation era and beyond, for transportation and to operate
animal-driven sugar mills. The need for donkeys has declined but
they persist in feral populations. White-tailed deer were introduced
to the U.S. Virgin Islands from the southern United States ca. 1790
for hunting and sport. The deer are noted to have a small home
range, which has prevented them from becoming exterminated in
many areas.

A new species appeared in the USVI in the early nineteenth century. This species, the Deer donkey (Equus virginianus) combines
attributes of each parent species, the donkey and deer. All male
deer donkeys and most female deer donkeys are infertile. Several
phenotypic variations are noted among observed deer donkeys.
Most common are deer donkeys that display most features typical to
donkeys with the addition of deer antlers. Most unusual is a variety
that manifests deer antlers not only on the head, but also protruding
from the trunk of the body. This mutation makes the animal unable
to transport goods or humans or to be harnessed to labor at the mill.
Due to the decline of donkeys in the U.S. Virgin Islands, these species are endangered.

“Red Birds” superimposes images of animals over historic photographs. The animals open a dialogue about biblical paradise
and the fable of the Caribbean as a utopia, while at the same
time representing migratory beings. The historic photographs
represent realism. The banners beneath the photographs proclaims “I maintain” in various colonial languages, emphasizing
the endurance of local culture despite the ruptures wrought by
migration. The images are printed on silk, which creates movement, emphasizing a central theme of migration, which continues in the back gallery with additional screen prints.

I will Maintain
Print on Silk
(36 x 28 inc)

“Stomp” is a two channel video projection created from video of St.
Thomas Eudora Kean High School’s drill team. “Stomp” evokes the
multilayered history of the islands, particularly ritual, gender, military
power, and cultural continuity and transformation. This piece also emphasizes the importance of youth in cultural continuity and transformation through performance.

“Daily Bread” is comprised of images of USVI governors. The images of the governors are cut from paper plates. When light is projected through the plates, the images
are transferred to the wall. This piece considers power after the transfer of the islands
by recontextualizing images of political figures on mundane paper plates—objects
used daily for food consumption. Placing the images here highlights the rituals of
mealtime, the status and class hierarchies invoked in these daily rituals through material culture, and the new political and power relationships established, challenged,
and maintained through the new USVI government and its evolution over time.

“Dream Journey” considers the juxtaposition of physical landscapes
and mental landscapes, both real and imagined. Romance novels
are found in abundance on Caribbean islands as a result of tourists
bringing them, and then leaving them behind when they return home.
These romance novels are often set in the context of the islands with

themes of pirates, sirens, and mermaids. For the tourist, the temporary migrant, the novel is a gateway to enter paradise. Although tourists’ mental landscapes of the Caribbean are not a reflection of the
actual physical and cultural landscapes that exist in the islands, the
utopian trope of paradise remains constant.

Notes on the 1918 Travel Passes
The image on the postcard invitation of this installation exhibit
features the cool gaze of 19 year-old Rudolph Ulysses Lanclos.
Indeed, his bowler hat – perhaps shale-stone gray with black ribbon
trim – but, now sporting a fiery brown, sits smartly above his ears
with tilted jaunty pride. Two things betray his vaunted intent in sailing
to New York City aboard the steamship, Saga: his stated purpose so
disarmingly casual: “visiting a friend Allan O’Neal, at 164 West 144
Street;” and his right lapel sporting a small shamrock fraternity pin.
From his tab collar hangs a white silk tie, a veritable shaft of light
illuminating his eyes.

Ulysses (for that is the name I’m using for this traveler
across Time), leaves us designated as a Clerk, but appears as a
“Dentist/Doctor” in the 1930 Census, when he returns to St. Thomas
to work in the Municipal Hospital. He comes from a remarkable
family: His mother, Hildah, is a homemaker; his father, Hubert, was

a bookkeeper; one sister, Rosamond, was a teacher; another sister,
Evelyn, was a telephone operator. Indeed, one of Hildah’s - and
Hubert’s - grandsons was Rudolph Galiber. Ulysses, then, belongs
to that long line of returnees connected to our present-day medical
corps: descendants of these estates’ grandmother mid-wives, and Aid
societies, long remembered in the Virgin Islands.

One gains particular democratic insights from the watershed
of faces, recipients of the 1918 US Immigration-issued Travel Passes
to persons residing in the newly purchased United States Virgin

In the currency of heritage exchange, these applicants
were among the first Virgin Islanders to formally engage with
the new empire, The United States of America, encrypting their
biographies, their variegated social intents and purposes for leaving
their homelands. Thus, the Nativity of so wide a pan-Caribbean field
of 1918 applicants is a remarkable footnote to an emerging Virgin
Islands democratic vision. Details of familial ties, occupation, age
and institutional memberships verifying their identities belie the
immutable strata of kinships, culture, and heritages that offer portals
into genealogical contours and inter-island legacies. There are other
buried constellations, in fact: a rich assortment that includes the
maritime records of ships’ names and dates of departure to sundry
ports. There are Letters of Recommendation, Baptism Certificates,
Marriage Licenses and Police Declarations with administrative and
civic vernaculars of their own; each with marginalia and innovative
addendums related to the change of status of these islands and
jurisdictional matters of colonial agencies. The tournament of officials’
names denoting past colonial authority now stand as a footnote of

A sobering and little-discussed caveat lay strewn in the
vestibule of History: the compiled list of persons who declared their
desire to preserve or retain their Danish citizenship. One sees the
proverbial needle’s eye errantly lodged between the vestibule’s
floorboards, parents and their unsuspecting children unwittingly
exercising a dubious Right, whether born in Denmark or these islands.

But it is the photographic image of the Travel Passes – the
first formal engagements of an impending US Citizenship – that speak
most eloquently across Time. They are, unquestionably, among the
first expressions of our 20th century Modernism. Aside from evidencing
a curious sartorial elegance and group portraiture, they objectify our
hopes and dreams in realm of The Gaze; our encounter with moving
image technology beginning with the steam-engine estate-workers of
the mid 1850s, and later, with Lindbergh’s pan-Caribbean landings of
the Jazz Age.
Edgar O. Lake

Rebecca Wilhemina Roberts, a 25 year-old seamstress and
native of St. John, leaves her Charlotte Amalie Address at No. 36
Norre Gade and applies for her Travel Pass on December 29, 1917.
Her scribal words belie her time. Born on the 12th of December, 1892,
Rebecca writes that she was born at “St. Jan,” and intends to leave
on the steamship Guiana. Her scrawl accelerates in sharp ascent,
and tacit declaration: “A visit. Brother Ralph Roberts, 677 Lenox Ave
New York City.”
Yet all three facts will change.
Almost six months later, she received her pass on June, 5,
1918. The designation of her native island, her intended good-luck
ship, Guiana, and her initially stated New York City address, will all
The Naval Police clerk’s deliberate term, St. John, changes
her own scribal, “St. Jans.” Then, her curiously assigned destination
changes to now 225 West 143rd Street. Lastly, Rebecca is assigned
passage on the steamship, Korona. From her tentatively hand-written
application, to scribed Travel Pass, only the section “purpose,” remains
constant from start to finish. Wilhelmina’s bureaucratic navigation
in attempting to re-establish contact with her brother, inadvertently
provides a cross-street address – to better confirm her destination:
a veritable walking grid of Virgin Islands-New York civic and political

Rebecca – no doubt a namesake of the 18th century Danish
West Indian Moravian internationally known pioneer – is a member
of the “Emmaus” Moravian Church on the East End of St. John. She
carries a Baptism Certificate signed by Reverend A.B. Konig. Five

Sponsors’ signatures etched at the time of her baptism (January
5, 1893), a five-day infant carried from Estate Little Plantation in
the swaddling arms of her parents: Samuel Augustus and Annie E.

One cannot help noticing the erectness of her posture: a
resolute elegance and alertness in her serene portrait. She stands
beneath a Moravian seal, holding a branch of the common fern.
Rebecca holds the fern as if she was a flautist, a poet finishing a
parchment. Or, is her portrait a subtle post-1917 peasant-societal
fraternal posting: using her native Flora as a pastoral plume (indigo,
or charcoal), a posture so deeply akin to American Poet, Phyllis

Her soft dress with high neckline framed by a spun-gold
medallion and flared embroidered cuffs revealing a cultured pearl
bracelet, speaks volumes of her ancestral fishing legacy and her
dressmaking skills and traditions.
Imagine, Winnold Reiss’s 1925 Harlem Renaissance
published portfolio (“Four Portraits of Negro Women”), with one
portrait of a Virgin Islands woman! Is it Rebecca’s soft cotton collar,
sketched broader now with age and Grace; the hair misted and oiled;
her gaze lowered and pensive?
Indigo, once grown at her birthplace, Estate Little Plantation,
complimented cotton farming which once flourished in -18th-19th
century Danish West Indies.
Rebecca, seamstress and immigrant - her enigmatic story
boldly sewn in the fabric of our people’s democratic vision.
Edgar O. Lake

Annesta Francis, is the 109th applicant for a US Travel
Pass in St. Thomas. Yet, she is a native of St. Croix, and, at 23
years old already a veteran cook – saucy, even in the pucker of her
eloquent mouth – setting out on August 5, 1918, from her residence
at Commanding Gade No. 10. Whom does she cook for - humming
those early-morning church tunes over stew; or, baking home-made
She can hardly wait to see the written phrase (“and is an
American citizen…”) written on her own Travel Pass. But, at the
Administration Building, the Naval Police clerk prophetically retraces
his mistaken spelling of the word (American) in the pivotal phrase:
“and is an American.” He first spells it (Amercan), no doubt a phonetic
contraction - but, doubly so - and at Annesta’s expense. He also
mistypes her name (Anesta), although it is Annesta – for that is how
she signs her name.

Annesta has already left her native island home, St. Croix,
though not forgetting the churchyard of St. Patrick’s Church, West
End. Reverend George Englert has sent her Extract of Baptism, five
months before – less six days. Days really matter, particularly for
someone already in-transit, and before she gives the certificate to the
police clerk, Ensign Theile, she notices, there too, her name is written
with one “n.” No matter. Clothes, and traveling papers, both to gather:
iron and fold.

She presents two pictures across the polished mahogany
desk: her picture shows a tear-filled left eye; the right one seems
proudly defiant and determined of her mission to improve her station
in life. Her baptism shows that Annesta is the daughter of William and
Margaret Francis, with baptism sponsors (and doting God-parents)
Joseph James and Rebecca McBean. At five months old, Annesta
was already crying at the world, even as Reverend Verlooy had softly
poured water across her veined forehead.

Annesta’s black hair is adorned with a vermillion-with-orange
stripes satin bow. It is neatly parted in rolling black waves, much
like the steamship, Marina, would be bound for “Porto Rico” on the

day. She had carefully put on her silver choker, and on a second turn,
affixed her prized silver and ivory pendant. It sits snugly at the plump
base of her neck, anchoring the vortex of her shoulder-wide collar.
Only her pair of pearl earrings outshines the white of her eyes. She
sits before the navy clerk, thinking of her aunt, Helen Boynes, living in
Santurce, Puerto Rico, to whom she will travel the following day. She
had memorized the address, Stop 15 Monserrate Street, House # 19,
pinning a copy of the document in her purse. In less than a month,
Annesta would secure her own residence at 16 Stop Casse No. 4, in

Whom has Annesta left behind? Her niece, Wilhelmina
Lancaster, three years older than she, residing at Kongens Gade No.
4. Wilhelmina is a laundress with equally determined eyes and a
sealed mouth. Her hard-worked 5 feet 1¼ inch frame - merely 1 and
¾ inches shorter than her aunt.

In the Mona Passage passing, several stowaways from “Porto
Rico” would be discovered who had come onboard a berthed ship,
with the “Lighter,” and hid in the ship’s boiler room. Forced aboard
another ship at high seas, and amidst protest from the Venezuelanbound skipper whose captain had been lured on deck and given a
three dollars fee, they had been returned to Porto Rico, bound and
chained. Annesta’s good-luck steamship Marina would have returned
- perhaps with a distinctive docking horn, or ship’s whistle, as it
approached the Charlotte Amalie harbor – just as three blasts would
later signal its departing at close of day.
Would Annesta have encountered these would-be New Yorkbound stowaways? Would it, perhaps, have been on the Ponce de
Leon – merely a few streets from her residence? Would they have
heard the mid-day stroke of the bell tower at the stately old Catholic
church in Le Palmas, now almost devoid of any memory of Las Islas
Virgenes? What of midday mass, once commonplace privilege for
both Annesta and Wilhelmina in St. Thomas and St. Croix? Those
genuflections - both theirs and now, ours - offer timeless votives for
these far-off sojourners.

Edgar O. Lake

Juliana Francis, a 28 year-old left her native St. Croix to find
work on St. Thomas as a House-worker. On September 5, 1918, she
walks from No. 17 & 18 Berge Gade, to the US Naval Government
Secretary’s office in the Administration Building, downtown Charlotte
Amalie, to complete her Travel Pass application.
She has not yet bought her passage on a steamer.
Juliana’s parents, William Francis and Joanna Germain, were
members of St. Patrick’s Church of West End. She can see the ghostly
Slips on Hassel Island, mountains of coal awaiting the steamers of the
various Packet Lines. Already, Juliana has seen enough calamity: The
1916 Hurricane fell on October 9th and 10th. The December, 1916, coal
workers Strike, the seamen of the Valkyrien, young Marines carrying
the wide baskets of coal in their backs
For the first eight months of 1918, deaths from contagious
diseases have been rampant and eerily competitive on St. Thomas
and St. Croix: on each island, eleven deaths resulting from Dengue
Fevers, six deaths from Pulmonary Tuberculosis, and five deaths
from Typhoid. All residents of St. Thomas between 5 and 45 years of
age have been vaccinated.

The First World War was gripping the mood on the island.
By June, 25,000 prisoners have been taken by the Allies. German
U-boats torpedo ships on the Eastern seaboard.
The local St. Thomas newspaper, The Bulletin, announced
that on June 15th, the Norwegian ships, the Vindegger, and the Heroic,
had been sunk by German submarines. Eighty tons of copper ingots
was taken by the U-boat, 200 miles off Cape Charles, Virginia. Bombs
and gunfire were used; torpedoes saved for larger troop transports. To
date, 18 ships had been sunk by U-boats.
American and English national anthems were sung in the
Wesleyn Methodist Church. Its advertisement was a heady mixture:
“Fifth year of World War. Why, I, as a Christian man,
can conscientiously pray for an Allied victory.”

In June, the Lutheran Church had a 10 o’clock
English-language service. That same month, the Moravian Young
Men’s Literary Society offered July 2nd entertainment at their Parish
Hall. Another dance had been arranged on July 3rd (beginning at 9
p.m., and ending at 3.a.m.) at the Grand Hotel for ringing in July 4th
celebrations. The Lutheran Church bell-tower shook that August 10th,
tolling for Thomas Gabru, a Machinist, who had left for New York City.
It created a dark mood that evening for a United Laboring Associationsponsored lecture event, “Indifference – its political and Industrial
effect on a Community,” by Rothschild Francis. The National Hymn
was sung at the lecture’s conclusion.
Two days before Juliana set out to complete her Travel Pass
application, the sailing sloop, La Gracia, returned from neighboring

Tortola, filled with “Excursionists,” who had left to celebrate Labor Day.
There was a Serenade, cricket match, a concert, and another evening
of entertainment. Rothschild Francis’s newspaper advertisement
had earlier promised “music all the time,” delivered by a choir and
orchestra, with all events prepared by the E.O. Club.
Yet, Juliana had not risked the excursion trip to Tortola. Instead,
she had been preparing clothes for herself and Leandra, ironing and
folding their best pieces. Later in the morning, Julian would hug the
shade of the curving alley, to buy two tickets for Steerage Class on the
Parima, a steamship due from Surinam and bound for New York City.
Thoughts of her god-parents, Andrew Ditty and Alice Benny, tearfully
came to mind. Juliana checked her purse for the two photographs
required for the Travel Pass.
The photographs show a brutal desire and fierce protection
for her daughter, Maria Juliana Leandra Greaux, a five-year old, sitting
on her knee. Both wear a crown of thick hair, braids form an enduring
crown: Mother and child as portrait.
No doubt retrieved for the occasion, a single strand of beads
falls softly over Juliana’s richly embroidered dress collar, an eerilyshaped noose in once-brutal times. Her application’s declaration
(“for the purpose of visiting a friend”), is belied by the formality which
followed, (“Mrs. Elaine Christian”).
As Juliana passes a makeshift news-stand, a torn poster
catches her eye with a poignant announcement: “Lecture, Monday,
September 30th, at 8:30 p.m. Under the auspices of the American
Historical Research Society, in the Hall of the United Labouring
Association, on Subject: The early political, social and industrial
conditions of the American People.” A series of lectures promising
“to open your eyes to things American.” The advertisement’s tag-line
haunted her deepest desire: “Be present and then decide what can be
done for our island home.”

She had saved a January 30th, 1918 newspaper dispatch
from New York, tucking it in the bottom of her valise:
“European food experts are agreed that the entire world
will be brought to the verge or starvation if the European
war continues to more,” Dr. Maurice Egan U.S. Minister
to Denmark Said last night. “The northern European
neutrals,” Dr. Egan declared, “are in dire straights. Food
is so scarce in Denmark famous Danish wolfhounds
are being slaughtered for food.” Dr. Egan, who recently
returned from Copenhagen for a rest, warned the people
of the U.S. against German espionage and declared that
every citizen should wake to its danger. He added that
“the people of Denmark now are living practical slavery
and that the same is true of other European neutrals.”

Edgar O. Lake

Leper Colony, St Croix / Acts of Erasure