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written by Sam Greenspan

Political map of the United States showing the borders of each state.

Half of the states changed their capital at least one time. Check out all the former capital cities and arbitrary judgments on whether their demotions were good or bad decisions.

Half of the states in this country have different capital cities than they used to.

No state has changed its capital city since 1910 (when Oklahoma did) — but up until that point, capitals were tremendously fluid.

I did some research into the 25 states that changed their capital city after they were admitted to the U.S., then I compiled all the results — and judged whether they made good or bad decisions. (In my own arbitrary view, naturally.)

Why change capital cities?

As many times some states changed their capital cities, it’s not because 

Changing capital cities happens for a few reasons, such as population shifts, political motivations, economic considerations, and historical or cultural reasons. 

When the capital is no longer located in the most populous or central location, or some significant groups want to reward a specific region to spur economic activities, states often shift their capital cities to their preferred place. Historical and cultural reasons may also play a role.

Whatever the reason, it’s a big deal to make such a change and requires a lot of resources and political will. Well, a few states may have too much political will to do just that!

Here are the 25 states that changed capital cities, and whether or not they screwed up in the process…

1 | Alabama

(admitted as a state in 1819)

Huntsville from 1819-1820
Cahawba from 1820-1826
Tuscaloosa from 1826-1846
Montgomery from 1846-present

Verdict: Bad decision. If they’d just left the capital in Tuscaloosa, Nick Saban could be the official governor of the state — not just 100x more powerful than him. (Or her.) (Just kidding. Don’t even have to look that one up.)

2 | California

(admitted as a state in 1850)

San Jose from 1850-1852
Vallejo from 1852-1853
Benicia from 1853-1854
Sacramento from 1854-present

Verdict: Bad decision. If it had stayed in Vallejo, E-40 could’ve been our celebrity governor instead of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

California (the Golden State) car plate.

3 | Connecticut

(admitted as a state in 1776)

New Haven and Hartford from 1776-1875
Hartford by itself from 1875-present

Verdict: Good decision. I guess they went with Hartford because it’s more centrally located, although that seems a bit unnecessary for a state that’s only slightly larger than a Sam’s Club.

4 | Delaware

(admitted as a state in 1776)

New Castle from 1776-1777
Dover from 1777-present

Verdict: Bad decision. Recently, Delaware became the only state you can’t get to via a commercial flight; the final airline with flights there, Frontier Airlines, stopped their service to New Castle Airport in Wilmington in late June.

If New Castle had remained capital, maybe that wouldn’t have happened — and then maybe I could’ve one day achieved my dream of flying to Delaware to visit a screen door factory.

A road sign that welcomes visitors to Delaware, the hometown of President Biden.

5 | Georgia

(admitted as a state in 1776)

Savannah from 1776-1778
Augusta from 1778-1780
Heard’s Fort from 1780-1781
Augusta from 1781-1782
Savannah for a few months in 1782
Ebenezer from 1782-1784
Savannah from 1784-1786
Augusta from 1786-1796
Louisville from 1796-1807
Milledgeville from 1807-1864
Macon from 1864-1865
Milledgeville from 1865-1868
Atlanta from 1868-present

Verdict: Good decision. It’s a state capital, not a doobie.

6 | Illinois

(admitted as a state in 1818)

Kaskaskia from 1818-1820
Vandalia from 1820-1839
Springfield from 1839-present

Verdict: Bad decision. If they were going to let a bunch of random Illinois cities with goofy names get a shot, why not give a little taste to Bourbannais?

7 | Indiana

(admitted as a state in 1816)

Corydon from 1816-1825
Indianapolis from 1825-present

Verdict: Good decision. I mean, the city is called Indianapolis, it’s dead center in the state, and it was specifically founded and engineered to be the state capital. It would’ve been too much of a slap in the face not to pull the trigger on moving the capital there.

8 | Iowa

(admitted as a state in 1846)

Iowa City from 1846-1857
Des Moines from 1857-present

Verdict: Good decision. I’ve spent exactly one night of my life in Iowa City and I saw approximately 275 bar fights. From that large sample size, I can conclude that the University of Iowa is the home of ruffians. Des Moines must have fewer ruffians.

9 | Louisiana

(admitted as a state in 1812)

New Orleans from 1812-1830
Donaldsonville from 1830-1831
New Orleans from 1831-1849
Baton Rouge from 1849-1862
Opelousas from 1862-1863
Shreveport from 1863-1865
New Orleans from 1865-1880
Baton Rouge from 1880-present

Verdict: Good decision. They tried damn hard to make New Orleans the capital — but if it didn’t take after three attempts, maybe it was wise to permanently move it to another, calmer city.

10 | Maine

(admitted as a state in 1820)

Portland from 1820-1832
Augusta from 1832-present

Verdict: Bad decision. I feel for Portland, which was the namesake of the “other” Portland but gets far less press.

A map of Maine.

11 | Michigan

(admitted as a state in 1837)

Detroit from 1837-1847
Lansing from 1847-present

Verdict: Good decision. According to what I read about this transition, there were two main justifications: (1) Lansing was centrally located and (2) people were worried that Detroit was too close to Canada and that might make it vulnerable to an invasion one day. Who could possibly disagree with the latter?

12 | Mississippi

(admitted as a state in 1817)

Natchez from 1817-1821
Jackson from 1821-present

Verdict: Bad decision. Natchez was a more vibrant city, but there was a push to find a spot for a centrally located capital. Jackson got the call, even though it it was only 110 miles or so away from Natchez and not all that central. Seems like the capital was moved for the sake of moving.

13 | Missouri

(admitted as a state in 1821)

St. Charles from 1821-1826
Jefferson City from 1826-present

Verdict: Who cares? I’ll be deep in the cold, cold ground before I worry about Missourah’s capital.

14 | New Hampshire

(admitted as a state in 1776)

Exeter from 1776-1808
Concord from 1808-present

Verdict: Good decision. I once had a major work conflict with a guy who went to that prep school in Exeter and, from that moment, I’ve adversely reacted to the school AND the city.

15 | New York

(admitted as a state in 1776)

New York from 1776-1777
Kingston for a little bit of 1777
Hurley for a little bit of 1777
Poughkeepsie from 1777-1788
New York from 1788-1797
Albany from 1797-present

Verdict: Good decision. In New York’s defense, they had to keep moving the capital around for a while because the British kept attacking it wherever it happened to land. As for picking Albany over New York City, I like that too — NYC was going to get its shine regardless, might as well throw another city a bone.

16 | North Carolina

(admitted as a state in 1776)

New Bern from 1776-1789
Fayetteville from 1789-1794
Raleigh from 1794-present

Verdict: Bad decision. Raleigh was only incorporated and designed to be the capital because it was inland — which meant it was safe from a naval attack. There were plenty of other cities that already existed that fit that reductive criteria.

A street sign welcoming visitors to the state of North Carolina.

17 | Ohio

(admitted as a state in 1803)

Chillicothe from 1803-1810
Zanesville from 1810-1812
Chillicothe from 1812-1816
Columbus from 1816-present

Verdict: Good decision. Growing up in Ohio, I went on school trips to all three of the above cities. Columbus is the no-brainer pick of the three due to its lack of gift shops with “Ye Olde” in their names.

18 | Oklahoma

(admitted as a state in 1907)

Guthrie from 1907-1910
Oklahoma City from 1910-present

Verdict: Bad decision. Guthrie was apparently a big deal city, but as soon as it showed a few signs of weakness, its status as the capital was snatched away — which just accelerated its decline.

19 | Pennsylvania

(admitted as a state in 1776)

Philadelphia from 1776-1794
Lancaster from 1794-1812
Harrisburg from 1812-present

Verdict: Good decision. At least they didn’t go with Pittsburgh.

20 | Rhode Island

(admitted as a state in 1776)

A rotation of Providence, Newport, East Greenwich, South Kingstown and Bristol from 1776-1853
Providence and Newport from 1853-1900
Providence from 1900-present

Verdict: Bad decision. There are only 39 total cities and towns in Rhode Island. They were only 34 away from letting them all get a taste of being the capital; why stop?

21 | South Carolina

(admitted as a state in 1776)

“Charlestown” from 1776-1786
Columbia from 1786-present


22 | Tennessee

(admitted as a state in 1796)

Knoxville from 1796-1807
Kingston for one day in 1807
Knoxville from 1807-1812
Nashville from 1812-1817
Knoxville from 1817-1818
Murfreesboro from 1818-1826
Nashville from 1826-present

Verdict: Good decision. If the capital had remained in Knoxville there wouldn’t have been room to build the sun sphere.

23 | Vermont

(admitted as a state in 1791)

Windsor from 1791-1805
Montpelier from 1805-present

Verdict: Good decision. To properly represent a large swath of citizens, the capital basically had to upgrade from the tiny town of Windsor to the bustling metropolis of Montpelier.

Map of Vermont showing its capital city, Montpelier.

24 | Virginia

(admitted as a state in 1776)

Williamsburg from 1776-1780
Richmond from 1780-present

Verdict: Good decision. Williamsburg is already the most dreaded family vacation spot in the country. If immersive history trips there also meant spending a day touring a sterile capitol building I can’t imagine how kids would take it.

25 | West Virginia

(admitted as a state in 1863)

Wheeling from 1863-1870
Charleston from 1870-1875
Wheeling from 1875-1885
Charleston from 1885-present

Verdict: Bad. After bouncing back and forth between Wheeling and Charleston, the people of West Virginia got to vote on their location of their capital — and Wheeling wasn’t even on the ballot. (The choices were Charleston, Clarksburg and Martinsburg.) I believe that’s how Pyongyang became a capital too.

Final verdict: 13 good decisions, 11 bad decisions, one Missourah.