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Learn: State Capital’s Nerd Room

Find out more about how did Lansing become Michigan’s state capital.

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Infographic explaining how Lansing became the state capital of Michigan.

How Lansing Became the Capital

Why did Lansing win and become the state capital?

  • Per House Reports No. 4-6 and Senate Report No. 15 1847, Lansing was the choice because it was more centrally located than other cities that were in the running.
  • Moreover the land and buildings were going to be free in Lansing per James Seymour’s offer. Financial issues in the state between 1836 and 1847 made a $200,000 expenditure (the presumed costs of building a new capitol and government buildings) unreasonable.
  • Marshall was REALLY close in the running, but they didn’t offer free buildings and land.

Why did Michiganders view Canada as a threat?

  • During the War of 1812, a military conflict between the United States and Great Britain, much of the fighting took place across the Detroit, Niagara, and Champlain waterways and on the Great Lakes.
  • As a colony of Great Britain, Canada was swept up in this war and was invaded many times by American forces.
  • Although the War of 1812 ended with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent in 1815, British troops did not leave Canada until the 1870s and remained a threat as long as they were at odds with the United States.
  • Detroit had been occupied by the British during the war and the narrow border area (less than 1 mile) between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario continued to be occupied on both banks after the war.
  • This proximity of British forces to Detroit, the state capital at the time, made many Michiganians nervous and was one of several reasons prompting the relocation of the state capital further west to Lansing.
  • The Third Capitol A board of building commissioners was quickly named and a nationwide contest announced to select an architect to design the new capitol, with only $1,200,000 allowed for its construction. In… Continue Reading
  • The Second State Capitol With many cities promoted and opposed, James Seymour, a speculator who owned land in Ingham County, drew attention to Lansing Township. On March 16, 1847, after months of debate the… Continue Reading
  • The First State Capitol Lansing was not Michigan’s original capital city. French fur traders and missionaries traveled the upper Great Lakes as early as the 1660s. In 1668, the Jesuit mission at Sault Ste.… Continue Reading
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3rd Grade Reading Level and Up

Michigan History Magazine. The Mitten. The War of 1812, November 2001. PDF

4th Grade Reading Level and Up

Michigan History Magazine. Michigan History for Kids. Getting to Michigan. PDF

High School Reading Level and Up

Dunbar, Willis F. and May George S. Michigan: A History of the Wolverine State, 3rd ed., W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1995. Catalog Record.

Clifton, James A., George L. Cornell, and James M. McClurken. People of the Three Fires: The Ottawa, Potawatomi and Ojibway of Michigan. Grand Rapids, MI: Grand Rapids Inter-Tribal Council, 1986.

Dunnigan, Brian Leigh. Frontier Metropolis: Picturing Early Detroit, 1701-1838. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2001.