1-3 Memory Graph: States and Capitals

History and languages have always been my weakness. When I took AP US History last year I had not a single clue where some states were. In this lesson I will teach you the concept of Memory Graph. Memory Graph allows you to organize memorized elements in designated locations, speeding up the recall process. The concept of Memory Graph is borrowed from Harry Lorayne’s book Super Memory Super Student. I modified the method to make it more practical. You probably know the states and capitals already, but I suggest you to read through this page anyhow for some mnemonic examples and to understand how Memory Graph works. Memory Graph can be applied to any geography material. In a separate lesson I will teach you how to memorize the periodic table using the same technique.

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I am going to divide up the US into nine regions: Northwest (A1), West (B1), Southwest (C1), North Central (A2), Central (B2), South Central (C2), Northeast (A3), East (B3), and Southeast (C3).

I am going to assign a peg word to each of the region. (If you do not know what a peg word is, search for it in my blog. A peg word is basically an arbitrary word that marks a location)

In the format (y,x), and using the pohenetic association of 1,2, and 3 from my variation of the Major System, (see page 1-1 All about numbers if you do not know what the Major System is) I will assign each section as

A1: AiD

B1: BeT

C1: CoDe

A2: AN(t)

B2: BuN

C2: CN

A3: AM(sterdam)

B3: BuM

C3: CeM(etry)

In my modified version of Memory Graph, each lattice box is a room.

AiD represents hospital

BeT represents casino

CoDe represents battlefield

ANt represents wilderness

BuN represents bakery

CN represents my house in China (just the living room)

AM represents a city square

BuM represents bathroom

CeM represents a graveyard

I conjure a 3D map of these nine connected rooms in my mind and place objects that would remind me of where is what. (a blackjack table in the casino; ruins of a tank on the battlefield) Maximize your imagination; feel the ambience, see the objects.

Do not make these distinct areas too large as we will be placing a maximum of 10 images in each one. I am separating my “rooms” by walls; virtual doors connect them.

Now lets place the states in their corresponding regions

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A AlaskaWashingtonOregon








MaineNew HamsphireVermont

New York



Rhode Island


New Jersey

B CaliforniaNevadaUtah




DelawareOhioWest Virginia





C ArizonaNew MexicoHawaii TexasOklahomaArkansas


So. CarolinaMississippiAlabama



Here comes the challenging part: how do we transform “state-capital” into a mental image? We will utilize a couple mnemonic techniques for this. (See Mnemonic page)

By now you should have this principle ingrained in your brain: the most ridiculous and obscene images are the most memorable. Some of the images I use are not quite appropriate for a healthy blog. They are simple replaced by “X”. “Person” is usually someone who reminds me of a state; their names are avoided.

Alaska – Juneau

Sarah Palin holding a Juno trophy. (will she ever win?)

Washington – Olympia

Obama; Olympic event clean and jerk

(I am aware that Washington  Washington D.C. … Using Obama for the sake of simplicity; by the way, his book Audacity of Hope is a great read)

Oregon – Salem

Ronald Regan in place of the shamwow guy in an informercial

Montana – Helena

Hana Montana; action; Person (personal)

Idaho – Boise


Wyoming – Cheyenne


California – Sacramento

Personal (someone who goes to school in California); X

Nevada – Carson City

“NEVER-DIE” Chuck Norris

“Tarsand” Wearing a Canadian Alberta jacket (Alberta and tarsand)

Utah – Salt Lake City

Person crying a lake (that’s right, not ocean…)

Colorado – Denver


Arizona – Phoenix

A phoenix rising from an Arizona iced tea bottle (delicious and cheap)

New Mexico – Santa Fe


Hawaii – Honolulu

Pineapple; X ;person.

North Dakota – Bismarck

Penguin with bite-marks

South Dakota – Pierre

“Soda CoDA(cold) – Pier”

A Coca Cola ship container at a pier

Minnesota – St.Paul

Miner with soda bottle. X. Paul

Wisconsin – Madison

Paul Ryan under mad sun

Indiana – Indianapolis

Indiana Jones chilling atop police car

Nebraska – Lincoln

X Lincoln statue

Kansas – Topeka

X Torpedo

Iowa – Des Moins

Samsung CEO shouting “I owe them coins” (he paid apple a billion in pennies… ridiculous Koreans)

Missouri – Jefferson

Missile chasing Jefferson

Illinois – Springfield

Rock concert (“ill” noise) at a cornfield but with springs instead of corn

Texas – Austin

Bush in Ashton Martin

Oklahoma – Oklahoma City

My house and Vlad vodka bottle (nasty taste)

Arkansas – Little Rock


See where “arcane ass” takes you

Lousiana – Baton Rouge

X and red baseball bat

Maine – Augusta

Tiger woods swinging golf (main event in golf in August: Augusta)

New Hampshire – Concord

Hamster climbing up statue of liberty

Vermont – Montpelier

A perrior bottle atop a furry hill/mountain

New York – Albany

Donald Trump bites a bunny

Mass. – Boston


Connecticut – Hartford

Heart chained to a ford

Rhode Island – Providence

Personal; God

Pennsylvania – Harrisburg

Person; heavy beard

New Jersey – Trenton

The Situation on Tron bike

Maryland – Annapolis

Katte Middleton in wedding dress holding a poisoned apple

Delaware – Denver

Bella (twilight… I apologize…) bathing with Dove soap

Ohio – Columbus

Columbis yelling “Oh Hi Unknown Land”

West Virginia – Charleston

Person. Person.

Virginia – Richmond

Person. Flicks cash

Kentucky – Frankfort

The KFC man. Person.

Tennessee – Nashville

Tennis player smashing a pillow

North Carolina – Raleigh

A rally of X Christmas carolers

South Carolina – Columbia

X Christmas carolers. Person

Mississippi – Jackson

Person rafting in river

Alabama – Montgomery

Banana with a turban (praise allah); mountain in a wedding dress (Mount go Marry)

Georgia – Atlanta

Person. Wrapped in an atlas as a greek toga

Florida – Tallahassee

Florida the rapper with 拖拉机. *Foreign language mnemonics work too!

These elements are placed in different rooms according to their regions and their relative locations within the region. When recalling, think about the region first, visit the room, and locate the desired image.

Have fun with Memory Graph!

Check out the Memory Graph: Periodic Table page. It will be up in a few days.


Click here to go back to the Contents page.


4 thoughts on “1-3 Memory Graph: States and Capitals

  1. Pingback: Update. | Memory Excursion

  2. Pingback: 02 Sept 2012 Notice | Jiming's Memory Excursion

    1. memoryexcursion Post author

      Thank you!
      I learned the Memory Graph method from “Super Memory Super student” by Harry Lorayne. I modified his version to fit myself. I will be uploading a similar page detailing how to memorize the periodic table using the same method.


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