US Presidents
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U.S. Presidents
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George Washington
John Adams
Thomas Jefferson
James Madison
James Monroe
John Quincy Adams
Andrew Jackson
Martin Van Buren
William H. Harrison
John Tyler
James K. Polk
Zachary Taylor
Millard Fillmore
Franklin Pierce
James Buchanan
Abraham Lincoln
Andrew Johnson
Ulysses S. Grant
Rutherford B. Hayes
James A. Garfield
Chester A. Arthur
Grover Cleveland
Benjamin Harrison
William McKinley
Theodore Roosevelt
William H. Taft
Woodrow Wilson
Warren G. Harding
Calvin Coolidge
Herbert Hoover
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Harry S Truman
Dwight D. Eisenhower
John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
Richard M. Nixon
Gerald R. Ford
Jimmy Carter
Ronald Reagan
George Bush
Bill Clinton
George W. Bush
Barack Obama


Key Dates

1818 James Polk graduated from University of North Carolina.

1820 James began to practice law.

1828 Polk was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

1835 James Polk was named Speaker of the House of Representatives.

1839 Polk became governor of Tennessee.

1844 James K. Polk was elected President.

1846 Polk declared war on Mexico.

1846 U.S. and Britain settled the boundary between Canada and the Oregon Territory.

1847 General Winfield Scott’s troops captured Mexico City. Mexico was defeated.

1848 Gold was discovered in California. U.S. acquired California in a treaty with Mexico.

1848 President James K. Polk declined to run for a second term.

1848 Zachary Taylor, hero in the Mexican War became President.

1849 Polk died at their Tennessee home.



Books I have read about James K. Polk and related topics.

I liked the first two better than the last, but all three are good.

James K. Polk
1845 - 1849
Eleventh President

James K. Polk was born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina on November 2, 1795. He was the first President born in North Carolina.

James attended the University of North Carolina.

When he was 17 he had urinary stones. He needed surgery. Dr. McDowell performed the operation. The legs were secured with straps. He was cut open without any pain killer except whisky.

Polk was 5' 8" tall.

He was a colonel in the Tennessee militia.

James Knox Polk met Sarah Childress in 1821. He proposed to her in 1823.

He was a workaholic who worked long, long hours. (See the quotes at the end of this page)

Polk owned slaves. He continued to buy and sell slaves even after he was elected President.

James won seven straight terms in the House and became Speaker of the House.



He was called "Young Hickory" because Andrew Jackson, "Ole Hickory,"was his mentor and both were from Tennessee.

He was the first "dark horse" (long shot) presidential nominee in U.S. history. At the Democratic Convention for President took 9 votes over several days before he was nominated. He didn't have any votes cast for him in the early ballots.

James Polk was the first president to have his inauguration reported by telegraph. Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph, tapped out his address.

He was the youngest person to be elected president at that time.

President Polk was one of only three Presidents that didn't have any children.

He was the first and only President who had been Speaker of the House before he became president.

Polk's Vice President was George M. Dallas (1845-1849).

He was the first president to have "Hail to the Chief" played when he entered a room fort a formal occasion. Some believe his wife Sarah started this tradition because Polk was short. People would know he was there even if they couldn't see him in the crowd.

President Tyler helped Polk meet his first goal by getting Congress to vote for the annexation of Texas. Polk signed the congressional resolution to annex Texas on December 29, 1845.

President Polk was the first president to have his photo taken while in office (1849). He was not the first president to have his picture taken.


President James K. Polk, ca. 1840's
National Archives and Records Administration

Mexico broke off relations with the United States right after Polk was elected.

The war on Mexico was one of the most controversial events during Polk's administration. Polk had sent General Taylor to southern Texas to stop Mexico from taking land from Texas. There was a small battle between Taylor's troops and the Mexican Army. Polk said American blood had be shed on American Soil. Some people including John Quincy Adams thought the American Troops were south of the American border and were sent their to start the war.

Some people called the Mexican War: Mr. Polk's War.

The vote for war with Mexico was 19 Senators for war and 13 Senators against the war. It was the closest vote for war in American History. The vote in the House was 79 to 49 for war.

During his term a national election day was set. The federal election for President was set as the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

On February, 23, 1848 Polk sent the Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo to the Senate for ascent.

John Quincy Adams had a heart attack while seated at is desk in the House of Representatives. He died two days before the House took up the treaty with Mexico.

Daniel Webster and Thomas Benton when taking about the treaty with Mexico said that New Mexico and California were "not worth a dollar." History proved them wrong.

While Polk was in office the size of the United States all most doubled in size.

James Buchanan served as his Secretary of State.

The first annual White House Thanksgiving dinner was hosted by his wife Sarah.

The first gaslight was turned on in the White House during Polk's administration, December 29, 1848.

During his administration, Polk's postmaster General introduced postage stamps in the United States.

The United States Naval Academy was established during his term in office.

Polk supported the acquisition of Texas into the United States. It was a major part of his campaign.

President Polk banned hard liquor and dancing in the White House.

James K. Polk was the most successful president in American history. Polk fulfilled all his campaign promises. During his administration Polk acquired California from Mexico, settled the Oregon dispute, lowered tariffs, established a sub-treasury, and retired from office after one term.

Iowa also joined union while he was President

James Polk was the first President to voluntarily serve one term.

Polk did not travel very often. However, he an Sarah went a trip to his alma mater, the University of North Carolina. The went mostly by train. When they came to stop they would great the people from the town. This was the start of whist-stops by presidential candidates.

Polk signed the bill that created the Smithsonian Museum.

Postage stamps were introduce while he was president.

Zachary Taylor won the office of the President and follow Polk. Polk said that Taylor "was wholly unqualified for the station."

Taylor did call on Polk and the White House and Polk invited him and his wife to dinner a the White House. This established etiquette that the president-elect to call upon the sitting President.

One small thing happened that historians may never agree on in history. Polk's term as President ended at noon on March 4th. March 4th was a Sunday and Taylor wanted the inauguration on Monday the 5th. Who was President on March 4th after noon. Some say Polk had an extra day. Others said Taylor was President even though he didn't take the oath. David Atchison supporters said he was President because he was president pro tempore of the Senate and next in line to be President.

At 4:30 on June 15, 1849 died. His last words were said to be "I love you, Sarah, for all eternity, I love you."

James K. Polk died in Nashville Tennessee on June 15, 1849. He was 53 years and 225 days old. He is buried in the State Capitol Ground, Nashville, Tenn.

Some historians believed he worked so hard as president and that it killed him. Most likely he had died of cholera. He died shortly after he left office. (Exhaustion might have weakened him.)

Polk's ex-presidency lasted just 103 days the shortest in history.

His wife Sarah outlived him by 42 years. She wore widow's black the rest of her life.

Quotes:

From James Buchanan: “ He was the most laborious man I have ever known; and in a brief period of four years had assumed the appearance of an old man.”

"We have a country as well as a party to obey."

'No President who performs his duties faithfully and conscientiously can have any leisure."

“I prefer to supervise the whole operations of the Government myself rather than entrust the public business to subordinates, and this makes my duties very great.”

Ulysses S. Grant was a young second lieutenant in the Mexican War. Years later he wrote "For myself, a young second-lietenant who had never heard a hostile gun before," Grand wrote years later, "I felt sorry I ever enlisted."

 

Topics


NEW Facts about the Inaugurations

Nicknames for the Presidents

First Ladies

Presidents who died in office

Assassinations and Assassination Attempts

Vice Presidents who became Presidents

Presidential Salaries

Oldest living Presidents

Presidents' Military Service

Preidential Timeline of Key Dates

Books about U.S. President

Pets of the Presidents

Chronlogical (by Year) Order
Of the Presidents.

 



Sources:

The Presidents of the United States. 22 September 2004: http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/

Davis, Gibbs and Ilus. David A. Johnson. Wackiest White House Pets. New York: Scholastic Press, October 2004

James, Barber and Amy Pastan. Smithsonian Presidents and First Ladies. New York: DK Publishing, 2002

Kane, Joseph Natan. Facts about the Presidents from Washington to Johnson. New York: H.W. Wilson Company, 1964.

McCullough, Noah, The Essential Book of Presidential Trivia. Random House, USA, 2006

Pine, Joslyn, Presidential Wit and Wisdom: Memorable Quotes from George Washington to Barack Obama . Dover Publications, Mineola, New York, 2009

Huffington Post web site.

Lang, Stephen, The Complete Book of Presidential Trivia, Pelican Publishing Company, Gretna, 2011

O'Reilly, Bill, and Dugard, Martin, Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2011

St. George, Judith In the Line of Fire: Presidents' Lives at Stake , Scholastic Inc. New York, 2001

In addition to these books, I have also read and have used information from those listed on my Books About Presidents page.

 


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This page was last updated on Thursday, February 11, 2016

For comments or corrections email wenzloff@yahoo.com.