Capital Identity Crisis

We were checking ebay a little while ago to see if there were any new old postcards of the Missouri Capitol. What we saw set us to wondering if other states have the same problems Missouri has with people thinking the seat of government is in some city other than the one that is the capital.

We didn’t take the time to check these other places, but we wonder if there are postcards being advertised as “Washington state capitol, Seattle.” Perhaps there are those that show the “Kentucky State Capitol, Louisville.”

How about the Maryland capitol. It’s in Baltimore, of course. And Portland is the capitol of Oregon, New Orleans is the capital of Louisiana, and Philadelphia is the capital of Pennsylvania.

Are people selling postcards of the capitols in those states putting the capitol in those cities?

Do you pronounce the name of Florida’s capital as My-amee or Me-amee? Neither, It’s pronounced “Tallahassee.” The Washington capital is Olympia. Salem is Oregon’s capital. Kentucky has a nice capitol approached by a lovely boulevard but it’s in Frankfort. Maryland’s capital is also the home city of the United States Naval Academy, not the Orioles. Baton Rouge, Louisiana does not have a French Quarter but it has a capitol. That’s Independence Hall in Philadelphia. You have to go to Harrisburg to find Pennsylvania’s capitol.

Listen up; ebayers:

JEFFERSON CITY HAS BEEN THE CAPITAL OF MISSOURI SINCE 1826. Think back to your fifth grade classes when you had to memorize all the state capitals. St. Louis was not on that list. St. Louis lost that battle almost 200 years ago.

In the first 50 entries under “Missouri capitol” on ebay today was a first day “Greetings from America” postal cover with a domed building in front of the Gateway Arch. The seller advertised it as the Missouri capitol. Nope. That’s the old courthouse. Some people think a dome means a capitol and a dome in St. Louis means St. Louis is the capital.

One photo purports to be a 1930s photo of the capitol in Jefferson City. At least they got the city right but the picture is not Missouri’s capitol. At least it’s not the St. Louis courthouse either.

A pin is offered showing the Missouri Arch and Capitol. A sterling charm shows the Arch and the “capitol.” A photo shows the Missouri Capitol Building (a redundancy) and the Arch.

There is no arch at the Missouri capitol in Jefferson City.

One available photo shows the capitol of Montana. Another photo is offered as a picture of the state capitol in Helena, Missouri, although the label on the back clearly says Helena, Montana. It’s a nice capitol. The House of Representatives chamber has a very large painting by the great western painter, Charles M. Russell, a St. Louis native, showing the Indians discovering Lewis and Clark. The Indians already knew about all of the stuff Lewis and Clark were “discovering.” The Indians’ big discovery was Lewis and Clark.

Our Capitol Decoration Commission picked England’s foremost muralist, Sir Frank Brangwyn, as its first artist to decorate the then-new building about 1920. Brangwyn sometimes referred to the project as being done for the “Parliament House in St. Louis.” But he was clear across the ocean and had never been to Missouri and had seldom been to the United States so we can probably excuse him. Besides, he’s dead.

Clearly, Missouri’s Capital has an identity crisis. Clearly the presence of a domed building in St. Louis is giving a lot of people the wrong impression. So Jefferson City needs a little cooperation from St. Louis, the National Park Service, and the Missouri Department of Transportation.

The NPS needs to change its sign in front of the old courthouse near the Arch to say at the bottom, “Not the Missouri Capital.)” The transportation department exit signs for St. Louis need to say “St. Louis (not the state capital). The St. Louis city limits signs should say “St. Louis, non-capital of Missouri.”

At the same time, the transportation department signs on I-70 and other appropriate roadways should send people to “Jefferson City, the capital of Missouri.” And Jefferson City’s Chamber of Commerce should note the distinctions with a motto like, “It takes more than an Arch to make a Capital.”

And then there is ebay. We think we have the solution to that issue.

The Lieutenant Governor.

Lieutenant Governors since the days of Bill “Fulltime” Phelps—he campaigned on the promise that he would be a fulltime Lite Gov instead of being someone who held the title but only showed up to preside over the Senate and wait for a Governor to die because those were the only duties the office had in those days–Lieutenant Governors have searched for duties that would justify their salaries. Through the years the legislature has given them some of those duties. We think the Lieutenant Governor should be declared the State ebay ombudsman. He should monitor ebay to make sure the postcard and picture peddlers correct their erroneous impressions that an old courthouse is the state capitol.

This is an important responsibility because all of this erroneous ebay stuff only fortifies the mistaken idea that St. Louis is the capital of Missouri.

Who else would be better for this job? The Attorney General has a full-time job telling people they cannot telephone other people. The Secretary of State is too busy digging out from under mountains of petitions, most of them filed by one lawyer. The state auditor is occupied looking over the shoulders of state agencies. The Treasurer is busy prying open old safe deposit boxes. And the Governor has such a busy travel schedule. Now that he’s not promoting a bike race, the Lieutenant Governor has a lot of idle time to keep an eye on ebayers and to educate them.

We need to solve this identity crisis and we need to do it now.

Helena, Missouri indeed!

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2 thoughts on “Capital Identity Crisis

  1. The Repubicans swear the Capitol is in Springfield. No help there. Democrates know it is Columbia. Where are 5th graders when you need them?

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