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The Nine Capitals of the United States

Robert Fortenbaugh (1948) 

(Out of print.)

Representatives from the 13 colonies convened the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1774. The following year the Second Continental Congress met at Philadelphia's State-House. Baltimore; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; York, Pennsylvania; and College Hall in Philadelphia were also meeting sites for the Second Continental Congress.

Under the Articles of Confederation, from 1781 to 1788, Congress convened in Philadelphia; Princeton, New Jersey; Annapolis, Maryland; Trenton, New Jersey; and New York.  Since the U.S. Congress was established by the Constitution in 1789, it has convened in three locations:  New York, Philadelphia, and its permanent home in Washington, D.C.

Nine Capitals details why the Continental Congress, Congress under the Articles of Confederation, and the U.S. Congress moved from place to place until a permanent capital was established in Washington, D.C.   Each chapter gives historical information on the events surrounding the move to the city, what business occurred there, and why the government moved on. Robert Fortenbaugh provides a rare analysis describing the little-known fact that there were nine capitals of the United States.

In November 2000, the U.S. Congress commemorated two centuries of residence in Washington, D.C. Learn more about the numerous chambers the Senate and House of Representatives have occupied in Washington.

Chronological Table of the Capitals

First Continental Congress

September 5, 1774 to October 24, 1774:
    Philadelphia, Carpenter’s Hall

Second Continental Congress

May 10, 1775 to December 12, 1776:
   Philadelphia, State House

December 20, 1776 to February 27, 1777:
    Baltimore, Henry Fite’s House

March 4, 1777 to September 18, 1777:
    Philadelphia, State House

September 27, 1777 (one day):
   Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Court House

September 30, 1777 to June 27, 1778:
   York, Pennsylvania, Court House

July 2, 1778 to March 1, 1781:
    Philadelphia, College Hall, then State House

Congress under the Articles of Confederation

March 1, 1781 to June 21, 1783:
   Philadelphia, State House

June 30, 1783 to November 4, 1783:
   Princeton, New Jersey, “Prospect,” then Nassau Hall

November 26, 1783 to August 19, 1784:
   Annapolis, Maryland, State House

November 1, 1784 to December 24, 1784:
    Trenton, New Jersey, French Arms Tavern

January 11, 1785 to Autumn 1788:
    New York, City Hall, then Fraunce's Tavern

Congress under the Constitution

March 4, 1789 to August 12, 1790:
    New York, Federal Hall

December 6, 1790 to May 14, 1800:
    Philadelphia, Philadelphia County Building–Congress Hall

November 17, 1800:
    Washington, U.S. Capitol

Source:  Robert Fortenbaugh, The Nine Capitals of the United States, page 9.