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U.S. Presidents from Tennessee (Special Collections): James K. Polk

This guide highlights research materials and primary sources in Special Collections related to the U.S. Presidents from Tennessee: Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, and Andrew Johnson.

James K. Polk

James Knox Polk (1795-1849) was the eleventh U.S. President, serving from 1845 to 1849. Born in North Carolina, Polk spent time as a lawyer and politician in Tennessee (much like Andrew Jackson whom he would eventually befriend). After serving in the Tennessee legislature, he also served as Governor of Tennessee (1839-1841). With Jackson's backing, Polk became the "dark horse" Democratic candidate for the 1844 presidential election. His term is largely noted for his push for territorial expansion, particularly in the U.S. Southwest, accomplished after the Mexican-American War. Polk is considered the last of the Jacksonian Era Presidents.

Manuscript Resources

portrait of President James K. Polk
1849 photograph of James K. Polk

Gary Johnson Collection of Presidential Signatures, 1840 (MS.3336, Box 1)
This collection of presidential signatures includes an April 21, 1840 letter of James K. Polk.

James K. Polk Letter, 1841 Feb. 2 (MS.0797)
In this 1841 letter to David Burford, James Polk asks Burford to reconsider his decision to abandon his political aspirations and discusses the general political situation in Tennessee.

James K. Polk Note, 1846 Sept. 5 (MS.2258)
In a September 5, 1846 note, President James K. Polk announces the assignment of Lieutenant Thomas Brounell to inspection duty for steamships that the government contracted through Edward Mills for mail carrying.

James K. Polk Appointment of William D. Fraser, 1849 March 3 (MS.2736)
This collection consists of a framed appointment dated March 3, 1849 for Captain William D. Fraser to attain the rank of Major by Brevet for "meritonous conduct while serving in the Enemy's Country." This document is signed by both President James K. Polk and Secretary of War William L. Marcy.

Rare Books and Facsimiles

  • Address of James K. Polk, to the People of Tennessee, April 3, 1839. 1839 (F436 .P76 1839)
  • Eulogy on the Life, Character, and Public Services of the Late ex-President Polk, July 25, 1849. 1849 (E416 .W66 1849)
  • James Knox Polk, and a History of His Administration. 1854 (E416 .J45 1854)
  • The Life of James Knox Polk. 1854 (E417 .J521)
  • The Diary of James K. Polk During his Presidency, 1845-1849. 1910 (E416 .P76)
  • Letters of James K. Polk to Andrew J. Donelson, 1843-1848. 1917 (E417 .P75 1917)

Special Collections Contact Information

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Special Collections
121 Hodges Library
1015 Volunteer Blvd.
Knoxville, TN 37996

Go to Special Collections for more information.