Test your knowledge of the 11th U.S. President and learn Polk trivia with our Online Quiz.
- Sarah Polk outlived her husband by forty-two years, making her the longest widowed first lady in American history.
- The Polk Ancestral Home is the only surviving home, except the White House, in which James K. Polk lived, although he resided there for only six years. All of his own homes have been torn down.
- Sarah Polk was her husband’s chief advisor throughout his career. She is credited with starting the use of the song “Hail to the Chief” as the official presidential anthem during her time as first lady.
- James K. Polk was buried three times. Because he died of a highly contagious disease, he was buried the day after he died on the outskirts of town. A year later, he was exhumed and buried under an elaborate tomb in the side hard of Polk Place, his wife’s home in Nashville. After Sarah’s death, they and the tomb were moved to the Tennessee State Capitol grounds where they remain today.
- Sarah often hosted large dinner parties serving the food one course at a time. One congressman’s wife estimated 150 courses were served during “four mortal hours” of dining.
James K. Polk:
A Frontier Upbringing
The career of the eleventh U.S. President reflected and fulfilled the young nation’s commitment to westward expansion. The son of a North Carolina farmer and surveyor, James Knox Polk was ten years old when his family crossed the Appalachian Mountains. Growing up on the Tennessee frontier, he inherited his neighbors’ work ethic, resourcefulness, and democratic ideals.
Although young Polk was accustomed to the rigors of frontier life, he lacked physical stamina. Shortly before his seventeenth birthday, he needed surgery for stones in his urinary bladder. The successful operation, performed by noted Kentucky surgeon Ephraim McDowell, enabled Polk to pursue an education with renewed enthusiasm.
Sarah C. Polk:
Sarah was born on the Tennessee frontier, but she grew up amidst wealth and refinement. Her father Joel Childress was a successful businessman and planter who wanted his children to have a good education. The frontier offered few opportunities for girls, however. After briefly attending a local school that taught the social graces, Sarah enrolled in the Moravian Female Academy in Salem, North Carolina. The Academy’s strong curriculum included arithmetic, grammar, Bible study, Greek and Roman literature, geography, music, drawing, and sewing. Sarah’s stay at Salem was cut short by the unexpected death of her father, but her education there had helped prepare her for her future role on the national stage.
Lesson plans, educational activites and links for further reading are available here.
President James K. Polk here.
First Lady Sarah Polk here.
Watch videos about President and First Lady Polk here.
For school field trips, the Polk Home’s staff will work with teachers to develop tours that relate to class studies.
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