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Capitals of U.S. States

Instructor: Jason Waguespack

Jason has taught Political Science courses for college. He has a doctorate in Political Science.

In this lesson, you'll learn about the capitals of the fifty U.S. States. This lesson will teach you the purpose of capitals, why capital locations are chosen, and the significance of capitals in American life.

Why Capitals Are Important

If you think back to elementary school, you probably had to memorize the capitals of all fifty states, and may have wondered why those names are so important. As it turns out, those capital cities play a vital role in running the fifty states. Capitals house the legislative, executive, and, in most cases, the judicial branch of the state government. Also, state capitals are often a center of culture and history for their state. So let's take a look at the fifty state capitals and their contribution to American life.

The Purpose of Capitals

St. Paul, capital of Minnesota
st paul

A capital city, or a capital as it's commonly referred, is the city where the seat of government is located. Within the capital the building in which the state legislative houses meet is called a capitol. The words capitol and capital can easily be mixed up, so let's establish the key difference between the words. The word capital with an a refers to a city, while the word capitol with an o is always talking about a building.

Capitol building in Lansing, Michigan
lansing capitol building

List of Capitals

This is a list of the 50 current state capitals of the United States.

Capital Cities States
Montgomery Alabama
Juneau Alaska
Phoenix Arizona
Little Rock Arkansas
Sacramento California
Denver Colorado
Hartford Connecticut
Dover Delaware
Tallahassee Florida
Atlanta Georgia
Honolulu Hawaii
Boise Idaho
Springfield Illinois
Indianapolis Indiana
Des Moines Iowa
Topeka Kansas
Frankfort Kentucky
Baton Rouge Louisiana
Augusta Maine
Annapolis Maryland
Boston Massachusetts
Lansing Michigan
St. Paul Minnesota
Jackson Mississippi
Jefferson City Missouri
Helena Montana
Lincoln Nebraska
Carson City Nevada
Concord New Hampshire
Trenton New Jersey
Santa Fe New Mexico
Albany New York
Raleigh North Carolina
Bismarck North Dakota
Columbus Ohio
Oklahoma City Oklahoma
Salem Oregon
Harrisburg Pennsylvania
Providence Rhode Island
Columbia South Carolina
Pierre South Dakota
Nashville Tennessee
Austin Texas
Salt Lake City Utah
Montpelier Vermont
Richmond Virginia
Olympia Washington
Charleston West Virginia
Madison Wisconsin
Cheyenne Wyoming

History of State Capitals

In the early years of many states, the location of the state capital would shift to different cities or towns before a permanent site had been chosen. For example, in Mississippi the capital was moved four times before finally settling in the city of Jackson. Reasons for moving the capital could include contests between political factions, the decline of the town where the capital was located, a population boom that made another city attractive, or to provide a better location for the state government in times of war. In the case of Delaware, Dover was picked to be the state capital because it was thought to be more protected from attack than the larger city of New Castle.

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