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James Knox Polk (1845-1849)

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

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


Secretary of State
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)

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.

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.