Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School



This research focuses on the capital location controversy that existed within Dakota Territory/South Dakota from 1861-1904. When Dakota Territory was formed in 1861 and again when South Dakota was admitted as a state in 1889, prolonged controversies arose over where to locate the capital. The historical facts and data of the region were analyzed to demonstrate how the controversy began in the territorial period and then intensified just before and after statehood. The final decision of where to locate the capital was established by a public vote. For this reason, the strategies used in persuading voters (both legislators and the public) at this critical time and how they applied to South Dakotan's selection of Pierre as its capital are incorporated into the study. A portrait of the controversy began to emerge as the four crucial spatial attributes of centrality, accessibility, population, and urban site and situation were assessed. Next, the five established theories of capital location were examined in relation to the South Dakota scenario. Examples of each theory and how they applied in the process of selecting a capital were provided. Finally, the geographical attributes of potential sites for the capital were evaluated and analyzed to determine how much weight was given to the geographical features of each candidate. This investigation was done by comparing and contrasting the centrality, accessibility, population, and urban site and situation of all locations competing for the honor of the state capital. The cities of Yankton, Aberdeen, Sioux Falls, Pierre, Huron, Mitchell, Watertown, Redfield, and Chamberlain vied for the prize over a period of 43 years. When it came to the spatial attributes of the candidates for the state capital though, most of the others were better situated than Pierre. Pierre's selection proved to be an exception to all of the established theories of capital location. The reality with which many prominent geographers, including Derwent Whittlesey, agree is that Pierre was an anomalous location for the capital. The fact that capital location and relocation continues throughout the world today demonstrates the relevance of this study. Keywords : capital location, political geography, Dakota Territory, South Dakota

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Political geography
Dakota Territory -- Capital and capitol
South Dakota -- Capital and capitol



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright