Memorize U. S. Capitals

    and learn a Memory Strategy

by B. Galloway

copyright 1993 





    You will be learning the fifty states and capitals in the order they were admitted to the United States. You will also be learning a powerful MEMORY ASSOCIATION and RETRIEVAL strategy.

    You will be memorizing the states with their capitals in the order shown in the table. The memory strategy is explained on this page. If you want to see an example mental video for a state and a capital, click on the state and capital name in this list. Additional resources are on the last page of this website.

This table shows the Capital Name - State Name - Date Admitted to U.S.

1. Dover, Delaware 1787   (example picture below on this page) 26. Lansing, Michigan 1837
2. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 1787 27. Tallahassee, Florida 1845
3. Trenton, New Jersey 1787 28. Austin, Texas 1845
4. Atlanta, Georgia 1788 29. Des Moines, Iowa 1846
5. Hartford, Connecticut 1788 30. Madison, Wisconsin 1848
6. Boston, Massachusetts 1788 31. Sacramento, California 1850
7. Annapolis, Maryland 1788 32. St. Paul, Minnesota 1858
8. Columbia, South Carolina 1788 33. Salem, Oregon 1859
9. Concord, New Hampshire 1788 34. Topeka, Kansas 1861
10. Richmond, Virginia 1788 35. Charleston, West Virginia 1863
11. Albany, New York 1788 36. Carson City, Nevada 1864
12. Raleigh, North Carolina 1789 37. Lincoln, Nebraska 1867
13. Providence, Rhode Island 1790 38. Denver, Colorado 1876
14. Montpelier, Vermont 1791 39. Bismarck, North Dakota 1889
15. Frankfort, Kentucky 1792 40. Pierre, South Dakota 1889
16. Nashville, Tennessee 1796 41. Helena, Montana 1889
17. Columbus, Ohio 1803 42. Olympia, Washington 1889
18. Baton Rouge, Louisiana 1812 43. Boise, Idaho 1890
19. Indianapolis, Indiana 1816 44. Cheyenne, Wyoming 1890
20. Jackson, Mississippi 1817 45. Salt Lake City, Utah 1896
21. Springfield, Illinois 1818 46. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 1907
22. Montgomery, Alabama 1819 47. Santa Fe, New Mexico 1912
23. Augusta, Maine 1820 48. Phoenix, Arizona 1912
24. Jefferson City, Missouri 1821 49. Juneau, Alaska 1959
25. Little Rock, Arkansas 1836 50. Honolulu, Hawaii 1959


1. Select locations.

    Walk to the front porch of your home. You should now be standing at the entrance to your home, either physically or mentally. Call this your first location, it is the entry to your home and the beginning for your memory recall structure.

    What is right inside your front door? It is distinctly different from the outside of your home. The space inside your front door is location two.

    You arrive home. Before you open the front door, you are at location one. When you step through your front door, you are at location two. You must continue walking through your home and select 48 more locations. Do that now. Make sure the locations are along a path that you would take if you walked through your home.

    Once you have selected your 50 locations, sit down somewhere, close your eyes, and recall the locations in order. For this example, look at the map I made to see how I walked around my place and selected locations. You can see I started at the front door and ended up in the kitchen.

Example for selecting locations in a place you know well:

    In this example, I selected locations around my apartment. If you look at Figure 1 below, you will see the path I took through the apartment. Each numbered location is something specific I can recall in my apartment. You will walk through your place mentally and decide on your locations. You should review your 50 locations a couple times to make sure you have selected a path where you will be sure to remember the spots you picked. The “path” should be sequential so that each spot comes directly after the last one.

1. outside front door 18. bookcase 35. file cabinet
2. inside front door 19. mirror 36. vacuum
3. mirror 20. lamp 37. yellow bookcase
4. T.V. 21. printer 38. furnace
5. VCR 22. computer 39. couch
6. first bookcase 23. desk top 40. coffee table
7. second bookcase 24. window 41. lamp
8. upper hall cabinet 25. bed 42. easy chair
9. lower hall cabinet 26. baseball bat 43. treadmill
10. bathroom door 27. upper closet shelf 44. kitchen table
11. toilet 28. lower closet shelf 45. stove
12. mirror over sink 29. jewelry box 46. refrigerator
13. sink 30. organizer 47. step ladder
14. bathtub 31. dresser 48. kitchen sink
15. shower curtain 32. radio 49. kitchen counter
16. towel rack 33. file cabinet 50. bag bin
17. bedroom door 34. calendar


2. Make up keywords, or cues.

    You learn when you associate something you already know with the new fact you want to remember and recall later (for a test). What comes naturally to your mind is the association you make.

    This is where the “work” comes in. You need to think up your own associations. This will be your “keyword” or “cue” to help you recall the information you are trying to remember.

This example shows an association I made up.

New Information to learn                Keywords that came to me.

                Dover                       =             someone diving, divers

                Delaware              =                 deli (delicatessen)


Here is an example "mental video" using the above keywords:


    If something different pops into your mind when you say “Dover” and “Delaware” to yourself, use that. You should put your ideas in your mental videos instead of using mine. Your keywords, or cues, will remind you of the fact you want to recall. You will KNOW you know it. You can use mine if they are useful to you.

3. Make a mental picture and attach your picture to a location you have selected.

    Use all the keywords to make up a mental picture. You must visualize your video with your keywords emphasized in your first location. Make your picture vivid by adding action, sounds, and smells. Exaggerate things in your picture. Make it funny. If you can’t remember a delicatessen outside your front door, make it a little mouse deli with little mice diving into the potato salad or little potatoes diving into the salad.

    Use all the keywords for your first state and capital in your first little video. Make this happen in your first location. Now think of your front door and the little video there. What state and capital have you associated with this video? Once you can come up with "Dover, Delaware" you are on your way.

    Go to the next location you have chosen in your home and place a video of your next group of key words there. Continue along your route placing each picture at the location that comes next. When you have all the pictures connected to specific locations, mentally walk your route and recall the states and their capitals.

Once you learn them, you will have confidence that you can recall the information.

4. Review

    This is an important step in any learning. If you memorize the first ten states and capitals in the morning, review them before starting on the next ten. You may find you need to change something or emphasize something more to help you recall a piece of information. You might need to make it jump out at you in some eye popping way.

    Memorizing information in this way helps you recall it when you need it by knowing exactly where you put it. This example shows putting information throughout a house. You can put your information in any place you know well or along a well known route you walk regularly. As you walk your route, you can review the information you want to have readily available in your mind. 

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