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State Capitols
A Never-ending Hobby


The Short Version

If you also have a state capitol hobby, you might find my entire story interesting. If not, you might prefer to – Read just the red lines below. – That's the short version. You'll be missing all the fun, but it will be quick and painless.

Oh, and you need to remember the word capital, ending in a–l, is for the city, the word capitol, ending in o–l, is for the building, and if capitalized, Capitol stands for the big one in the National Capital, Washington DC. This is according to AP, Associated Press, style.

The Long Version

My obsession is state capitol buildings. It was way back when I was in grade school that the obsession began, though it wasn't an obsession then. A couple of other events in my life molded it into one over the years. Now it is here, and it has me creating this website to feed it.

Back in grade school, like most kids in this country, I was taught about our different states and their capitals. The subject wasn't particularly interesting until I heard the capital of Kentucky is Frankfort. That just couldn't be! My grandmother lived in Frankfort, and it certainly was not in Kentucky! It was in Illinois, down that road that went past my sister's high school. I knew, because I had been there! Was there something special about a state capital that allowed it to steal another city's name?

I guess growing up in Palos Park, a suburb of Chicago, two places with rather unique names, did not prepare me for cities in different states having the same name. When I thought about the capitals we were learning about, I believed there was a definite problem. After all, Augusta was certainly in Georgia, not Maine. And why on earth was a city in Oregon named Salem? About the time I found out there is a Paris, an Ottawa, and an Oregon, all in my native Illinois, I realized I would have to find a way to make sense of all this. That seemed a huge task, since even some capitals that weren't stealing their names made no sense. Harrisburg? The 'burg' in Pennsylvania surely had always been Pittsburgh! I decided to memorize the capitals. It was my way of keeping them under control. Besides, I love memory games.

The first time I successfully memorized the 50 capitals, I thought I would never forget them. Job done. I wish! I ended up working through the list several times, but there were many I could not recall every time I took up a paper and pencil to work at what had become a game to me. A memory game. I love memory games. But I wasn't winning this one.

It was time for some tricks. Now I call them 'associations,' but as a kid they were just my tricks. Coming up with the associations was fun. For example, South Carolina: I had been to South Dakota - Mount Rushmore was great - so South Carolina in comparison was a mystery to me; nothing fit the image of a combination of south and mysterious better for me than Colombia, South America; now I just had to spell it right, and the capital of South Carolina came easily as Columbia. Simple. I worked a bit on this, and it became family joke, in a nice sort of way. I really did know all the capitals. Then I realized I needed a new game because this one was conquered. I really wanted to stay with the capitals and build from the old game. This time I settled on a collection instead of a memory game.

Not very long after we got married, my husband and I planned a 2,000 mile driving trip from Illinois to Oregon. Interstate 80 was the main highway in our plan, and it was going to take us through, or very near several state capitals. I decided I wanted to take a quick photo of the capitol building in each of them, and I thought we had many trips in our future where I could add to my new collection of photos of my old friends, the state capitals, now represented by the capitols. This should have set me up with a long-playing, relaxed sort of game.

My husband wasn't quite into my idea. In Nebraska, he felt I should settle for a shot of Lincoln's skyline from many miles out so he wouldn't have to drive into town. Later he was very pleased we could see the Idaho capitol in Boise without leaving the highway at all, and was sure my photo would be clear enough in spite of our 60 miles-per-hour, in-traffic vantage point - or vantage path, I guess. I was forced to assemble my collection through postcard hunting instead of photography.

The good side of a postcard collection turned out to be how easy it is to get friends and relatives to pick them up for me during their travels. Well, at least it is easy with some of them, like Rita. (Thanks, Rita!) Of course I continued to collect capitol pictures myself, but all those trips I envisioned us taking all over the country were, and still are, slow in coming, so the cards from others were necessary to keep the collection growing. In several cases, tour brochures were easier to find than postcards, so I gladly included them instead as long as they had a picture of the capitol. I eventually became so accepting that even newspaper and magazine articles have found a home in my collection.

My state capitol collection is in a scrapbook, and every item has an entry telling who collected it for me, where, when, and why they were there. I figured I had a good chance of eventually having all 50 states represented, and I didn't mind that it would probably take the rest of my life. Then, late last century, (Gosh, I love saying that!) I was introduced to the Internet.

One of the first things I realized about the Internet was that I could finish my collection. I could look up every capitol building and print a picture of it, and assemble my finished scrapbook. But where would the fun be in that? It would all be done. Done and boring. At the same time, I couldn't just wait the rest of my life when all those pictures were so available. What to do?

Compromise. It is a wonderful thing, and very easy to do with oneself. The front of each state's page in my original scrapbook contains the postcards, photos, and brochures collected by myself and my friends. The back and additional, inserted, smaller pages in my scrapbook contain images and information I collected on the Internet (for private use, so not infringing on copyrights). I collected a lot of images and information. Many of the buildings became very familiar to me. Many, but not all. Why couldn't I remember them all? Hmmm. Time to get things under control again. Time to memorize.

I decided I would figure out a way to identify each of our 50 state capitol buildings from a current photo of the front – a memory game. I love memory games. But why a website? Because in all my Internet investigation, I never found anyone else doing this. I found several state capitol hobbyists, but no one identifying a unique feature of each building. And I have so much more of interest about these wonderful buildings to share. So why not a website? It would be an adventure that I could share with everyone, and it is the ultimate addition to my collection. Besides, I'm into things that can take years to complete.

Valerie Mockaitis

P.S. April 20, 2015

The creation and maintenance of this site has been a truly neverending hobby. I considered taking it offline a few times, but now the two main sections are finished, and the wonder and online availability of antique and vintage postcards gave me a whole other direction to follow. Now the site has been online for 10 years. A decade. And I still can't give it up. I'm currently doing maintenance, like adding this note, and then, who knows?

P.P.S. January 17, 2017

I can now tell you what is next. I've spent the last 15 months working on a new set of pages on the history of our past and present capitals and their capitols. Provincial, colonial, territorial, district, temporary, state, rotating, ... so many! The text page is nearly ready to upload. The image page, to be uploaded as soon as it's ready, is cumbersome with 250 images! This may take a while.

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Page Last Updated: Jan-17-2017

For complete image credits and information sources, see Credits & Sources.

Site Author: Valerie Mockaitis     ©2005 - 2017 Valerie Mockaitis