James K. Polk

11th President James K. Polk, 1845-184911th President James K. Polk, 1845-184911th President James K. Polk, 1845-184911th President James K. Polk, 1845-184911th President James K. Polk, 1845-1849

11th President James K. Polk, 1845-1849

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

Full Name: James Knox Polk
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:

YearCandidatePopular VotesElectoral Votes
1844James K. Polk1,338,464170
(map)Henry Clay1,300,097105

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.
Internet Biographies:
James K. Polk -- from The Presidents of the United States of America
Compiled by the White House.
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 text-rich biography on this North Carolina native.
Historical Documents:
Inaugural Address (1845)


Other Internet Resources:
President James K. Polk Home and Museum
The only surviving Polk residence (other than the White House) provides tours, exhibitions, and events.
President James K. Polk State Historic Site
Located on land once owned by Polk's parents, there is a reconstructed log house and visitor center.
Points of Interest:
Additional Facts:
  • 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.
Facebook Feed:

“With me it is exceptionally true that the Presidency is no bed of roses.”

“I am heartily rejoiced that my term is so near its close. I will soon cease to be a servant and will become a sovereign.”

Previous President: John Tyler
Next President: Zachary Taylor