Key Dates

1818 James Polk graduated from University of North Carolina.

1820 James begins to practice law.

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

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

1839 Polk becomes governor of Tennessee.

1844 Jakes K. Polk is elected President.

1846 Polk declares war on Mexico.

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

1847 General Winfield Scott’s troops capture Mexico City. Mexico is defeated.

1848 Gold is discovered in California. U.S. acquires California in a treaty with Mexico.

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

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

1849 Polk dies at their Tennessee home.


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.

He was a workaholic who worked long, long hours.

Polk owned slaves.

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

James Polk was the first president to have his inauguration reported by telegraph.

He was the first President and only President who had been Speaker of the House.

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

James K. Polk was the most successful president in American history. During the 1844 campaign, he made 5 promises: to acquire California from Mexico, to settle the Oregon dispute, to lower the tariff, to establish a sub-treasury, and to retire from the office after 4 years. When he left office, his campaign promises had all been fulfilled.

He was the first "dark horse" (long shot) presidential nominee in U.S. history.

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

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

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.

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.
James 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.

Polk had ruined his health from overwork while in office. He died of exhaustion only 3 months after his term ended.

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.


Quick Notes

11th President 1845-1849

Born: Mecklenburg County, NC Nov. 2, 1795

Inaugurated President: March 4, 1845

Party: Democratic

Died: Nashville, Tenn. June 15, 1849, age 53




  • The Presidents of the United States. 22 September 2004
  • 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
  • Harnsberger, Caroline Thomas. Treasury of Presidential Quotations. Chicago: Follett Publishing Company, 1964
  • Kane, Joseph Natan. Facts about the Presidents from Washington to Johnson. New York: H.W. Wilson Company, 1964.
  • National Park Service Web Site on Presidential Trivia:

Additional Sources:


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This page was last modified: February 2, 2012