POTUS: Presidents of the United States

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Portrait, James Knox Polk

James Knox Polk

11th President of the United States
(March 4, 1845 to March 3, 1849)

Nickname: "Young Hickory"

Born: November 2, 1795, in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina
Died: June 15, 1849, in Nashville, Tennessee

Father: Samuel Polk
Mother: Jane Knox Polk
Married: Sarah Childress (1803-1891), on January 1, 1824
Children: None

Religion: Presbyterian
Education: Graduated from the University of North Carolina (1818)
Occupation: Lawyer
Political Party: Democrat
Other Government Positions:

  • Member of Tennessee House of Representatives, 1823-25
  • Member of U.S. House of Representatives, 1825-39
  • Speaker of the House, 1835-39
  • Governor of Tennessee, 1839-41

Presidential Salary: $25,000/year

Presidential Election Results:
Year Popular Votes Electoral Votes
1844 James K. Polk 1,338,464 170
Henry Clay 1,300,097 105

Vice President: George M. Dallas (1845-1849)


Secretary of State
tiny U.S. flag James Buchanan (1845-1849)
Secretary of the Treasury
Robert J. Walker (1845-1849)
Secretary of War
William L. Marcy (1845-1849)
Attorney General
John Y. Mason (1845-46)
Nathan Clifford (1846-48)
Isaac Toucey (1848-49)
Postmaster General
Cave Johnson (1845-1849)
Secretary of the Navy
George Bancroft (1845-46)
John Y. Mason (1846-49)

Supreme Court Appointments:

Associate Justice
Levi Woodbury (1845-51)
Robert Cooper Grier (1846-70)

Notable Events:

  • 1846
    • A large crack in the Liberty Bell proves too large to permit the bell to be rung any more.
    • Dispute with Britain over the Oregon Territory settled. Both nations get a part of the territory.
  • 1848
    • Treaty of 1848 with Mexico gave the U.S. control over California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and parts of Colorado and Wyoming.
    • Gold discovered in California in December.

Internet Biographies:

James K. Polk -- from The Presidents of the United States of America
Compiled by the White House.
James K. Polk -- from American Presidents: Life Portraits -- C-SPAN
Biographical information, trivia, key events, video, and other reference materials. Website created to accompany C-SPAN's 20th Anniversary Television Series, American Presidents: Life Portraits.
James Polk -- from The American President
From the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, in addition to information on the Presidents themselves, they have first lady and cabinet member biographies, listings of presidential staff and advisers, and timelines detailing significant events in the lives of each administration.
James Knox Polk -- from People in THE WEST
Based on the documentary THE WEST by Ken Burns and Stephen Ives, this biographical sketch focuses on Polk's role in expanding the U.S. borders westward.
James K. Polk -- from the North Carolina Encyclopedia
A very text-rich biography on this North Carolina native.

Historical Documents:

Inaugural Address (1845)

Other Internet Resources:

Points of Interest:

  • A week before he died, Polk was baptized a Methodist.
  • Gaslights were installed in the White House while Polk was a resident.
  • Polk survived a gallstone operation at age 17 without anethesia or antiseptics. Those medical practices were not used at the time.
  • The first annual White House Thanksgiving dinner was hosted by Sarah Polk.
  • Sarah Polk was a devout Presbyterian. She banned dancing, card-playing and alcoholic beverages in the White House.
  • News of Polk's nomination was widely disseminated using the telegraph. The first time his had been done.

Previous President: tiny U.S. flag John Tyler | Next President: tiny U.S. flag Zachary Taylor

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