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.
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.
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."