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James K. Polk: A Short Life Full of Major Accomplishments

Posted by RALEIGH DEGEER AMYX on Wed, Dec 09, 2015 @ 10:30 AM

james k polk 

JAMES K. POLK (1795-1849)
OUR 11TH PRESIDENT (1845-1849)  

President James K. Polk is perhaps best remembered with the slogan, “54° 40’ or fight.” After all, if it wasn’t for Polk’s leadership and tenacity in promoting geographic expansion, Texas and the Pacific Northwest may never have become part of the United States. Nonetheless, our 11th president accomplished several other “firsts” and was unique in many lesser-known ways.

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A MAGNIFICENTLY PRESERVED 9" DESSERT PLATE PURCHASED AND USED BY PRESIDENT JAMES K. POLK - NOW IN THE RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX COLLECTION OF OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE CHINA

Polk was a one-term President, serving from 1845 to 1849. It may have been his personal toughness that enabled him to lead the country through this tumultuous period. When he was only 17, he had surgery to remove gallstones that had bedeviled him throughout his childhood. The surgery was performed without benefit of either sterilization or anesthesia, because neither existed at that time, though anesthesia was invented while Polk was President.

Home-schooled as a young boy, James Polk had no formal education until the age of 18. Nonetheless, he was accepted as a sophomore to the University of North Carolina in 1816. He graduated in just two years, earning top honors in the classics and mathematics.

james k polk

WELL EDUCATED FORMER FIRST LADY SARAH CHILDRESS         (1803-1891) 

Polk’s wife, the former Sarah Childress, was also very well educated, a rarity for women in those days. As the daughter of a wealthy Tennessee plantation owner and merchant, she was privileged to attend the Salem Female Academy in North Carolina. Throughout their time together she helped her husband write letters and speeches and served as his confidential political and intellectual sounding-board and advisor.

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A PRISTINE 9.5" SHALLOW SOUP BOWL FROM THE JAMES K. POLK WHITE HOUSE CHINA COLLECTION - NOW IN THE COLLECTION OF RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX

At the time he was elected, James K. Polk was the youngest person ever elected to the presidency – the first President under 50. He was also the youngest president to die, excluding assassinations. He was only 53 when he passed away, just three months after leaving office. That made him the only President to die before age 60, and the one to enjoy the shortest-ever presidential retirement. Some historians speculate Polk died of cholera, whereas others attribute his early death to lifelong frail health. As it turned out, he predeceased his own mother by three years.

james k polk

JAMES K. POLK INITIATED THE TRADITION OF PUTTING UP A CHRISTMAS TREE IN THE WHITE HOUSE  
 
James K. Polk was the first and only President who had previously served as Speaker in the House of Representatives. He was the first President to win an election without carrying either his home state or his state of residence. And he was the only president to use a law book instead of the Bible for his swearing-in ceremony. Polk was also the first President to put up a Christmas tree in the White House.
 
Overall, James K. Polk is highly regarded to this day for his achievements, especially his work to enlarge the territory of the United States. In a study jointly published in the year 2000 by the Wall Street Journal and the Federalist Society, James K. Polk was voted as one of the "near-great" Presidents of the United States. (There were only three Presidents listed in the "Great" category: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.)

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RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX - HISTORIAN AND COLLECTOR 

World renowned collector Raleigh DeGeer Amyx has acquired a remarkable number of scarce or rare pieces of official White House china. Mr. Amyx’s passion for American historical artifacts has been his sole focus for more than 35 years. Mr. Amyx's collection is the largest privately-owned collection of extremely high-quality, as well as the rarest, Official White House China as well as Presidential China in the world. If you would like to engage in a discussion with Mr. Amyx about White House China, please contact him through the button below.

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