On this day in 1777, the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, became the nation’s capital for a single day. With the Revolutionary War still raging, George Washington’s Continental Army was outflanked at the Battle of Brandywine, causing them to retreat. Victory by the British allowed them to capture Philadelphia, the capital of the young nation, with little resistance.
The arrival of the British caused the Second Continental Congress to pack up and move 60 miles west to new headquarters in the Lancaster County Courthouse. Lancaster’s time as capital city was short-lived, however. The next day the Continental Congress packed up and moved again, this time to a more strategic position on the west side of the Susquehanna River, 20 miles away in York, Pennsylvania.
Residents of Lancaster have not forgotten their moment in the sun. In 2011 the Lancaster City Council officially designated each September 27 as Capital Day.
On a usage note, one of most common mistakes in English is confusing the words “capital” and “capitol.” The only time you should use “capitol” with an “o” is when you are referring to buildings, such as “the capitol buildings” or “the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. “Capital” with an “a” is used for all other meanings of the word, including capital letters, capital punishment, capital finances, and capital city, meaning the name of the city on the map, rather than a reference to its governmental buildings (2). For example, “We visited the capitol building in Olympia, the capital of Washington state.”
Today’s Challenge: Make It a Capital Day
What makes your hometown worthy of being designated “The Nation’s Capital for a Day”? You’ve been appointed to argue the case for your hometown, and if successful, your town will be awarded the 24-hour honor plus five million dollars. Promote your town or city for this honor by describing its virtues Chamber of Commerce-style, identifying what makes it a special, one-of-a-king place, worthy of being named capital for a day. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)
1-Trex, Ethan. Glory Day: Lancaster’s Brief Stint as Our Nation’s Capital. Mental Floss.com 27 Sep. 2017. http://mentalfloss.com/article/31494/glory-day-lancasters-brief-stint-our-nations-capital.
2-Fogarty, Mignon. The Grammar Devotional: Daily Tips for Successful Writing from Grammar Girl. New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2009.