American Capitals: A Historical Geography by Christian Montès

By Christian Montès

State capitals are an indelible a part of the yank psyche, spatial representations of country energy and nationwide id. studying them by means of center is a ceremony of passage in grade university, a pedagogical workout that emphasizes the significance of committing place-names to reminiscence. yet geographers haven't begun to investigate country capitals in any intensity. In American Capitals, Christian Montès takes us on a well-researched trip throughout America—from Augusta to Sacramento, Albany to Baton Rouge—shedding gentle alongside the way in which at the ancient situations that resulted in their appointment, their good fortune or failure, and their evolution over time.

While all nation capitals have a few features in common—as symbols of the nation, as embodiments of political strength and selection making, as public areas with deepest interests—Montès doesn't interpret them via a unmarried lens, largely end result of the adjustments of their spatial and historic evolutionary styles. a few have remained small, whereas others have advanced into bustling metropolises, and Montès explores the dynamics of switch and development. All yet 11 nation capitals have been tested within the 19th century, thirty-five ahead of 1861, yet, particularly astonishingly, simply 8 of the fifty states have maintained their unique capitals. regardless of their respected prestige because the such a lot enormous and historic towns in the US, capitals come from unusually humble beginnings, frequently suffering from instability, clash, hostility, and corruption. Montès reminds us of the interval during which they took place, “an period of pioneer and idealized territorial vision,” coupled with a still-evolving American citizenry and democracy.

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Such changes were quite common in early mining camps, stressing the changing tides of popularity among the town fathers, and the modesty of fame. The founder’s name was sometimes even dropped, as in Montana. In 1864 a group known as the “Four Georgians” struck gold in what is now Helena’s main street and called it Last Chance Gulch. A settlement grew, and was first given the name of Crabtown, after one of the Georgians, John Crab. But it did not please the other miners, who preferred the name of a Minnesota town, Saint Helena, “pronounced Saint Hel-E-na.

When a town already existed before being selected as the capital, its name was often changed. Fame and the desire for higher status were the main reasons, especially when the town’s name was plain or even unfortunate. Indeed, not all the future capitals had names as propitious as Colorado’s second capital, Golden. Its origin is not what one might expect. It was named for the first pioneer who settled there in 1858, Tom Golden (Leonard and Noel, 1990, 298). When colonial Virginia’s General Assembly decided in 1699 to move the capital, it also voted to alter its name.

The capitol of Columbus, Ohio, underlines the importance of a glorious topping. It was built between 1839 and 1861, and cost 1,350,000, a huge sum at the time. Although it is locally said to be superseded in the United States only by the national capitol (which is not true), a controversy arose about its truncated dome. Some deemed it classy, but others compared it unfavorably to the Monitor, the first ironclad navy vessel, and to a mammoth cheesebox, according to the Ohio State Journal in 1882.

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