What is the capital of Ohio? Many might be inclined to say Cleveland. After all, the city has a large population and is home to many well-known professional sports teams. But remember, there are many elements to take under consideration when it comes to deciding which city will become the capital of a U.S. state. In reality, the capital of Ohio is Columbus. Why is Columbus the capital of Ohio? Let’s start with a quick history lesson.
A Quick History of Columbus
Ohio became a state in 1803. In those early years of statehood, political infighting would result in the state capital moving from Chillicothe to Zanesville, and back again. Obviously, this back-and-forth wasn’t sustainable, so prominent political leaders in the state decided to settle on an official location once and for all.
Many different cities were considered, but ultimately a compromise was reached to build a new city in the center of the state, near major transportation routes and rivers. The city of Columbus was founded on February 14, 1812. The city was named in honor of Christopher Columbus.
Following its founding, the city would grow rapidly. Schools, churches, and government offices were built. It officially assumed capital functions in 1816.
With a prime central location within the state, Columbus would attract a variety of different industries in the years that would follow. The city became connected to the rest of the country through railroad and telegraph lines during the 1840s and 50s. Factories moved in, manufacturing nearly everything, from farm tools and machinery to cigars and shoes.
In addition to factories, Columbus also attracted the attention of institutes of higher learning. Schools like the Ohio State University and Capital University were established. The emphasis on higher education also contributed to the development of libraries and other institutions, including art schools and musical societies.
Why Cleveland Is NOT the Capital of Ohio
Located on the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland is perhaps the best known city in Ohio, but familiarity rarely matters when it comes to picking a state capital.
Cleveland was founded before Columbus, with the first survey of the area completed in 1796. It was named after General Moses Cleaveland, but due to a spelling error, has always been spelled as “Cleveland”.
Unlike Columbus, growth in Cleveland was actually pretty slow at the start, mainly due to the expensive price for land. Once the Erie Canal was completed in 1836, the city would start to boom. John D. Rockefeller opened the Standard Oil Company in the 1860s, and Samuel Mather started producing steel around the same time. These companies employed a large portion of the population, and Cleveland began to emerge as a commercial center.
By this time, however, Columbus had already long been the capital of Ohio.
Why is Columbus the Capital of Ohio?
Cleveland might be more well known than Columbus today, but it has never really been in any consideration to be capital. And the same can be said for Cincinnati, which is located in the southwest corner of the state.
At the end of the day, Columbus made sense as the site of Ohio’s government for many reasons. It is centrally located, and has long been accessible from various parts of the state. It has traditionally been a center of industry and a place of higher learning—both of which still thrive there today.
And furthermore, unlike some other capitals around the U.S., Columbus actually has the largest population of any city in the state. It is a city full of culture, history, diversity, and social activities.
The next time you find yourself in the Buckeye State, make sure you check Columbus out!
Mark Heald is an Associate Product Manager and Sporcle Admin. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and bemoaning the fact the Sonics left Seattle.