Destiny Made Manifest
|James K. Polk|
Driving to my brother's home south of Nashville, we have often noticed official highway signs indicating the interstate exit for the home of President James K. Polk near Columbia, TN. Certainly the name is familiar but "James K. Polk" sounded rather undistinguished and even dull. Without really knowing anything at all about him except that he had once served as our Chief Executive, he seemed easy to dismiss. But we passed the signs one time too many, and Ken insisted the time had come to visit the home of this little-known U.S. president.
|James K. Polk Ancestral Home, Columbia, TN|
|President Polk (front row, second from R) and his cabinet—the first such group ever photographed.|
Many years later the plain spoken Harry S. Truman admiringly said of Polk: "He said what he intended to do and did it." Yes, Polk did secure passage of a law which reduced tariffs, and he established a treasury system that remained in effect until 1913. But his most lasting accomplishment was the expansion of the United States to the Pacific Ocean. Through diplomatic negotiations, annexation, and a war with Mexico, the territory of the United States was increased by a third during Polk's four years in office.
|U.S. expansion. Areas marked with a star were acquired during Polk's term.|
|The home's kitchen was housed in a separate building. The fountain came from the Polks' Nashville home.|
|Tomb of James K. and Sarah Polk|
|Dining room at Polk Ancestral Home with dishes used at White House and portraits of James and Sarah Polk|
- At the age of 17, Polk had successful surgery to remove kidney stones. He was fully awake during the procedure with only a little brandy as anesthesia.
- Due to the swampy location of the White House, it was traditional for the president and his family to vacate the property during the summer. Polk was the first president to remain in the executive mansion year-round—no doubt due to his desire to accomplish his complete agenda.
- While in Congress, Polk served one four-year-term as Speaker of the House, the only president to have done so. He attempted to bring more order to House procedures. In a departure from custom, Polk refused to challenge anyone to a duel, regardless of insults to his honor.
- A protégé of fellow Tennessean Andrew Jackson, Polk was called "Young Hickory" because of his support for Jacksonian policies and initiatives.
- As president, Polk oversaw the opening of the Naval Academy, the creation of the Smithsonian Institution, the laying of the Washington Monument cornerstone, gas lighting of the Capitol and White House, and the establishment of a uniform election day.
- America's first postage stamps were issued during the Polk administration.
- Polk's 103-day retirement was the shortest of any president.
- Frequently ranked by historians in the top 10 most effective presidents, James K. Polk is often cited as the strongest president between Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln.
More Photos from the Polk Ancestral Home
|The client chair from Polk's law office.|
|Excerpt from White House kitchen ledger|
|Sarah Polk's writing desk|
|No historic site would be complete without a gift shop. (in the museum next door)|