The 17 States Whose Capital is also its Largest City

For the majority of US States, the state capital is NOT the largest city in the state. There are a few different reasons for this. In many cases, capitals were established during a time period when it wasn’t easy to get from one city to another. Therefore, capital cities were chosen because of their central location in the state.

Keep in mind also, that a state’s largest city today wasn’t always the largest city at the time a state capital was chosen. Olympia was more populous than Seattle when was chosen as the capital city of the Washington. Nevada’s largest city, wasn’t founded until 1905 but Carson City became the capital when Nevada was granted statehood in 1864.

In other cases, state capitals were selected for some specific or somewhat bizarre reason. Texas had quite the dispute over whether Austin or Houston should be the capital of Texas after Texas won independence from Mexico and became its own country. At one point, the city of Detroit was Michigan’s state capital but this was moved to Lansing to have the capital be farther away from British-controlled Canada. Madison became Wisconsin’s capital in part because of a simple lobbying campaign by the city’s founder.

There are 33 capitals who are NOT the largest city in their state.

State Capital Largest city
Alabama Montgomery Birmingham
Alaska Juneau Anchorage
California Sacramento Los Angeles
Connecticut Hartford Bridgeport
Delaware Dover Wilmington
Florida Tallahassee Jacksonville
Illinois Springfield Chicago
Kansas Topeka Wichita
Kentucky Frankfort Louisville
Louisiana Baton Rouge New Orleans
Maine Augusta Portland
Maryland Annapolis Baltimore
Michigan Lansing Detroit
Minnesota St. Paul Minneapolis
Missouri Jefferson City Kansas City
Montana Helena Billings
Nebraska Lincoln Omaha
Nevada Carson City Las Vegas
New Hampshire Concord Manchester
New Jersey Trenton Newark
New Mexico Santa Fe Albuquerque
New York Albany New York City
North Carolina Raleigh Charlotte
North Dakota Bismarck Fargo
Oregon Salem Portland
Pennsylvania Harrisburg Philadelphia
South Dakota Pierre Sioux Falls
Tennessee Nashville Memphis
Texas Austin Houston
Vermont Montpelier Burlington
Virginia Richmond Virginia Beach
Washington Olympia Seattle
Wisconsin Madison Milwaukee
Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2010 figures and 2014, 2016 population estimates.

Now, can you name the states whose capital is also its largest city?

Looking for more on US State Capitals. Check out 50 Remarkable Facts About the US State Capitals