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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:



Popular Votes

Electoral Votes


James K. Polk




Henry Clay



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)

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 Table of Presidents and Vice Presidents of the United States - MSN Encarta

Grolier Online has created this resource from its collection of print articles in Encyclopedia Americana. Contains a full biography, written by Edwin A. Miles, along with suggestions for further reading.

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 Knox Polk -- from the Hall of Forgotten Presidents

A case for considering Polk as one of the "near-great" presidents.

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 anesthesia 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.





James Polk

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


Sarah Polk