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Lancaster: Capital for a Day

Most people know that Philadelphia was the nation’s first capital, and even more know that it’s permanent home is now in Washington, D.C.  However, many people don’t realize that Lancaster became the capital of the United States in 1777 – even though it was just for a day. Continental Army commanders decided Philadelphia could no longer remain the national capital since the British troops were advancing quickly from the Chesapeake Bay area.  On September 11, 1777, Washington’s men clashed with the British troops in the Battle of Brandywine. Unfortunately, this battle was a disaster for the Continental Army, and the Second Continental Congress realized they were no longer safe in Philadelphia. So they moved south, choosing Lancaster as their destination.

Congress was to meet in Lancaster’s courthouse, constructed in the town square in 1737. Congress met in the courthouse for one day before they relocated to York.  This strategic move offered an additional 20 miles of distance away from the British.  York City lies on the western side of the Susquehanna River, which allowed for easy defense against the British if they were to advance south to York.  There is no record of any significant decisions made during the meeting in Lancaster. Even so, on September 27 each year, Lancastrians celebrate. In 2011, Lancaster City Council recognized September 27 as Capital Day to commemorate the occasion.

This year, Homespun Lancaster is hosting a celebration, beginning with a ceremonial march from Penn Square to Mayor Rick Gray’s house at 2:30 pm and will continue from 3 pm to close at Tellus360, 24 East King Street. The schedule of activities includes local comedian Rubi Nicholas, celebrity Jeopardy, and performances by PA Mambo Orqestra and Slimfit. Guests will learn the Capital Day song, and the winner of the Capital Day flag design contest will be revealed. T-shirts with the flag design will be available for purchase. Baron Von Schwein and Sugar Whipped will be parked outside, and there will be plenty of Wacker beer inside! Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online here or at the door.

P.S. Check out Homespun’s brilliant promo for Capital Day, Drunk History: Capital Day.

Events & Festivals, Weekend