Another question about early America that often stumps my tour groups:
“How many capitals of the United States have there actually been?”
We already know of the first two capitals since the Constitution was ratified: New York and Philadelphia.
But how about York, Lancaster, or Baltimore before that?
These former capitals are as fleeting in American memory as they were temporary.
Basically, the early U.S. capitals were wherever Congress hung its hat. And although the Second Continental Congress started out in Philadelphia, it soon hit the road after declaring independence.
With British troops nipping at its heels, Congress left Philadelphia in December 1776 and headed to Baltimore, Maryland, convening in the rather roomy house of one Henry Fite.
Once things improved on the battlefield, Congress returned to Philadelphia, but it was soon on the move throughout Pennsylvania, off to Lancaster (admittedly just for one day), York, and then finally back to Philadelphia.
After the war ended, the Congress under the Articles of Confederation fled Philadelphia once more – but this time from American troops during the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783.
During this period we racked up even more capitals – Princeton, Annapolis, Trenton – and finally, the first official capital of the newly constituted United States: New York.
Add in one more (and hopefully permanent) capital – the District of Columbia – and that makes a grand total of nine capitals.
And there’s your answer.