Special Report

This Is America's Largest State Capital

State capitals are not always the largest cities in a state by population. Often, they are little-known for people who live outside these states. How many people realize that Lansing is the capital of Michigan, for instance? (Shouldn’t the decision have been to locate the capital in Detroit?)

Sometimes, though, a state’s capital is also its largest and most famous city. Boston and Indianapolis are good examples. Another one is America’s largest state capital: Phoenix, Arizona.   

In the book “American Capitals: A Historical Geography,” author Christian Montès points out that capitals were often picked by state legislatures, but some were chosen by governors or popular vote. Another notable fact about state capitals is how few are named after people. There are a small number of exceptions, like Jefferson City, Missouri, and Lincoln, Nebraska. (Click here to see the strangest town names in every state and where they came from.)

To determine America’s largest state capital, and to note where other capitals rank in size, 24/7 Wall St. used data from the U.S. Census Bureau to review all 50 state capitals based on population. 

Click here to see America’s largest state capital

Some are unusually small. Montpelier, the capital of Vermont, is the smallest of all, with a population of less than 8,000. Pierre, South Dakota, has fewer than 14,000 people, and the population of Augusta, Maine, is less than 20,000.

Phoenix, on the other hand, has a population of 1.7 million. Phoenix became a city in 1881, 31 years before Arizona became a state – and today it is the only U.S. state capital with more than a million residents. (See the largest city in every state.) 

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