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[A] What is the oldest capital city in North America?
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September 3, 2019
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Zack Creach
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10 Most Common U.S. City Names

Not only are town and city names reused, they’re reused a lot. Some city names are sprinkled all over the country. These are the ten most common city names in the U.S.

Riverside

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Total Count: 27

We’d almost hesitate to do any research into the Riverside name, if only because it seems too simple to need research. Places are named Riverside because they’re beside a river. Nevertheless, we did some Googling and proved sometimes things are as simple as they appear. Expect there to be rivers close to any of these 27 places in the United States. If there aren’t rivers anywhere nearby, expect the place to have been originally settled by people nostalgic for their hometowns of Riverside, where there were, in fact, rivers.

Springfield

Credit: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Total Count: 27

Springfield is such a common U.S. place name that it’s the name they used for the ultimate lampooning of the American lifestyle. It’s generic, it’s nondescript, it’s noncommittal and it's perfect for anytime you need a place to be relatable yet distant. Unless you’re someone who lives in one of the 27 places named Springfield. Then all those jokes probably feel a little too targeted. Especially if you consider yourself an average American.

Salem

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Total Count: 27

You’d think that places in the United States would be wary of naming themselves after the most notorious witch hunt in our history. But apparently they’re not, which is how you end up with more than two dozen American cities named Salem. Besides the deadly town in Massachusetts, you have a Salem in Alabama, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Georgia, New Jersey and Tennessee, among many others.  The name comes from the Bible and is the original name for Jerusalem.

Madison

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Total Count: 27

The most famous Madison has to be the one in Wisconsin. It’s the state capital and easily the largest city that bears the name. Most of them are presumably named for James Madison, the fourth president of the United States and “Father of the Constitution.” He’s a good guy to name a place after, since he was among the most highly educated and literate of the Founding Fathers, a group of men who were already famous for being highly educated and literate. You also have to admire the guts in a guy who looked at not one, but two forms of national government (England’s Parliament and the Articles of Confederation) and thought, “This isn’t really working for me.”

Georgetown

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Total Count: 27

Georgetowns are all over the country, in Delaware, Idaho, Florida, Kentucky, Ohio and Colorado, with a few dozen more sprinkled around. The one that pops into most people’s brains is probably the affluent neighborhood of Washington, D.C., with its brick buildings and brick sidewalks and brick lifestyle and close proximity to the brick dominated Georgetown University.

Chester

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Total Count: 27

For as generic a name as it seems, Chester has some surprisingly deep history behind it. Most of the Chesters in England were the sites of Roman military fortifications, known in Latin as a castrum. The longer the Romans stayed, the more they developed and expanded their castra, which means as the years dragged on, what started as small wooden forts transformed into large English settlements. The chances are, if you’re somewhere in England with Chester or Caster in the name, you’re on the site of a Roman fort.

Obviously that doesn’t hold in the United States, because, as far as we know, the Romans never made it this far. But English settlers brought the name over with them, making American Chesters part of the long Roman tradition.

Arlington

Credit: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Total Count: 28

More than any other place on this list, the name Arlington conjures a certain image. Namely, Arlington National Cemetery. But for as famous as the cemetery is, we had no idea where the name came from, which is why we did some searching. One possible origin for the name comes from Henry Bennet, the first Earl of Arlington. As settlers from Bennet’s land came to the New World, they brought his name with them, dubbing their new home the new Arlington. It’s a fairly typical story, but good to finally know.

Clinton

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Total Count: 28

The inspiration for the Clinton place name is most likely DeWitt Clinton, not Bill or Hillary. Clinton is most famous for the work he did in constructing the Erie Canal, the waterway that connected the East Coast with farmland in the Midwest and drastically improved the shipping of resources between America’s breadbasket and the eastern seaboard. But he didn’t stop at the canal. He was also a member of the New York Assembly, New York Senate and United States Senate when the country was still working out the kinks (not that we’ve ever really stopped). He was also heavily involved in New York politics as the Mayor of New York City and the Governor of New York State, making him one of the most prolific politicians we’ve never really heard of.

Washington

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Total Count: 28

With the way people talk about George Washington, we’re surprised this number isn’t even higher. The man’s an American demigod, and has been so highly revered for so long that his two-term presidential precedent, which was set mostly because two-terms is when Washington simply didn’t feel like being president anymore, was taken as political gospel. Then that personal decision was codified and turned into a Constitutional amendment. That’s a lot of weight to carry a century and a half after you were in power.

Franklin

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Total Count: 31

Franklin being the most common U.S. place name makes sense. Despite never being president, Ben Franklin is the only Founding Father who could give Washington a run for his money. The guy had his hand in virtually every important American decision since before the country was even founded, and has a quote to prove it. There are Franklins in Iowa, Georgia, Connecticut, Ohio, North Carolina, California, Texas and two dozen others.

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