POLK, James Knox, 1795-1849


Oil on canvas, Rebecca Polk after G.P.A. Healy, 1911, Collection of U.S. House of Representatives

Guide to Research Collections

Library of Congress
Manuscript Division
Washington, DC
Papers: ca. 1775-1891, 39 linear feet.
The James Knox Polk Papers contain general correspondence, presidential letterbooks, diaries (25 vols., 1845-1849), account and memorandum books, drafts and copies of speeches and messages, family papers, financial and legal papers, and printed matter. Concentrated in the period 1830-1849, the papers relate particularly to Polk’s political career in Tennessee and on the national level. The struggles during the Jackson administration over the Bank of the United States, nullification, and internal improvements are documented as well as the annexation of Texas, war with Mexico, the Oregon question, and the acquisition of New Mexico and California during Polk’s term. Other topics include slavery, tariff question, patronage and office seeking, plantation matters, and family affairs. Includes 3 vols. of the papers of Polk’s wife, Sarah Childress Polk. The collection also is available on microfilm (67 reels).

Papers: In the Edmund Burke Papers, 1821-1881, 400 items.
Correspondents include James K. Polk.

Papers: In the Marian S. Carson Collection of Manuscripts, 1656-1995
Persons represented include James K. Polk.

Microfilm: In the Andrew Jackson Donelson, ca. 1779-1943, 14 reels.
Correspondents include James K. Polk.

Papers: In the John Fairfield Papers, ca. 1828-1876, 1.8 linear feet.
Correspondents include James K. Polk.

Papers: In the Andrew Jackson Papers, ca. 1775-1860, approximately 26,000 items.
Correspondents include James K. Polk.

Papers: In the William L. Marcy Papers, ca. 1806-1930, 19.2 linear feet.
Correspondents include James K. Polk.

Papers: In the Franklin Pierce Papers, ca. 1820-1869, 6.8 linear feet.
Correspondents include James K. Polk.

Papers: In the Polk Family Papers, 1767-1859, 2 items.
Persons represented include James K. Polk.

Microfilm: In the Riggs Family Papers, 1763-1945, 3 reels
Correspondents include James K. Polk.

Papers: In the Stevenson Family Papers, 1756-1882, approximately 12,000 items.
Correspondents include James K. Polk.

Papers: In the Zachary Taylor Papers, 1814-1931, 633 items.
Correspondents include James K. Polk.

Papers: In the Nicholas Philip Trist Papers, ca. 1795-1873, 6.4 linear feet.
Correspondents include James K. Polk.

Papers: In the Martin Van Buren Papers, ca. 1787-1910, 18 linear feet.
Correspondents include James K. Polk.

Papers: In the Richard Wallach Family Papers, 1800-1868, 40 items.
Correspondents include James K. Polk.


Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
Springfield, IL
Papers: 1844, 2 pages.
A letter from James K. Polk to his brother, William H. Polk, written on January 20, 1844. In the letter, James Polk discusses activities and prospects in the campaign of 1844.


Alabama Department of Archives and History
Montgomery, AL
Papers: In the William Phineas Browne Family Papers, 1804-1935, 5 cubic feet.
Correspondents include James K. Polk.


Brooklyn Historical Society
Brooklyn, NY
Papers: Letter (February 23, 1843) and invitation (1848).
Finding aid in repository.


Brown University
John Hay Library
Providence, RI
Papers: 1846-1847, 2 items.
The first item includes a letter from James K. Polk to the Secretary of Navy written on March 20, 1846. The second letter is from Polk to Messrs. Cochran & Riggs written on June 11, 1847. In the letter, Polk requests to balance his bank book.


The Copley Press
J.S. Copley Library
La Jolla, CA
Papers: 1832, 4 pages.
A letter from James K. Polk to an unidentified recipient written sometime in 1832. In the letter, Polk discusses his concern about the education of his younger brother, William.

Papers: 1844, 2 pages.
A letter from James K. Polk to Colonel Samuel H. Laughlin written on August 1, 1844. In the letter, Polk urges the newspaperman to strengthen his paper with “an extraordinary portion of spirit and fire ... These are not ordinary times. We are in a storm ... The Whig press of Nashville should be promptly and most vigorously met at every point.”

Papers: 1845, 1 page.
A letter from James K. Polk to James Buchanan written on April 15, 1845. In the letter, President Polk authorizes Secretary of State (James Buchanan) “to affix the Seal of the United States to a power to exchange the ratification fo a treaty between” the United States and China.

Papers: 1846, 1 page.
John C. Fremont’s commission as Lt. Col. Issued at the start of the Mexican War, on June 26, 1846. The commission is just weeks before the outbreak of the Bear Flag Revolt & the American conquest of California. Signed by President Polk & Secretary of War, William L. Marcy.

Papers: 1847, 2 pages.
A letter from Jessie Benton Frémont to President James Polk written on February 16, 1847. In the letter, Frémont asks Polk for a 2nd Lieutenancy for Charles Taplin who had served on Fremont’s second expedition and now “is very anxious to go to Mexico.”


Dartmouth College Library
Rauner Special Collection Library
Hanover, NH
Papers: 1848, 2 pages.
A letter from James K. Polk to Abbott Lawrence written on November 22, 1848. In the letter, Polk writes that he has received Ticknor’s letter who inquires on behalf of Maria Edgeworth of Ireland about Polk’s Irish relatives.


Duke University Library
Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library
Durham, NC
Papers: 1831-1846, 4 items.
The papers of James K. Polk contain a letter, 1846, from Cave Johnson about an affair involving a committee of claims, and correspondence, 1831-1832, concerning Revolutionary war claims.

Papers: 1840-1845, 3 letters.
Topics in letters addressed to James K. Polk include a county’s selection of electors in the Presidential campaign of 1840, and recommendations for two job posts.

Papers: In the Philip Ricard Fendall Papers, 1779-1916, 13 items.
One is a letter secretly written to President James K. Polk by Mrs. P.R. Fendall on 1845, July 4, expressing her bitterness over the failure of Polk to renew the appointment of her husband as U.S. District Attorney for D.C. and her objection to the spoils system of politics.

Papers: In the Gales & Seaton Papers, 1811-1868, 297 items.
Persons represented include James K. Polk.

Papers: In U.S. Presidents’ papers, 1753-1935. 202 items.
Card index in library.


Huntington Library
San Marino, CA
Papers: ca. 1790-1889, 43 pieces.
The papers of James Knox. Polk contain political correspondence, notes, and other papers. Correspondents include Robert John Walker, Thomas Ritchie, and others. The collection also contains Polk’s notes on the annexation of Texas, his comments on publications in the New York Evening Post, the Washington Union, and other editions, George Bancroft’s translation of an excerpt from Journal des Debats, and Polk’s last will and testament. Also included an article on the Oregon dispute with Great Britain prepared for publication in the Pennsylvanian (1846, October), Arthur Pendleton Bagby’s open letter to the people of Alabama concerning the annexation of Texas (1845, Nov. 15), and a report by the Senate Committee on Title, endorsed by James Madison (1790, May 14). The collection also contains correspondence of Sarah Childress Polk, chiefly concerning biographical sketches of herself and her husband. Correspondents include George Bancroft, James Grant Wilson, and others.


James K. Polk Ancestral Home
Columbia, TN
Papers: Portraits, lawbooks, and other artifacts relating to his life.


Louisiana State University Libraries
Special Collections
Baton Rouge, LA
Papers: In the Alfred Flournoy Papers, 1824-1935, 1 volume.
Letters from Congressman James K. Polk to Flournoy pertain to a pension bill related to disabilities received in the War of 1812; a request for a list of residents in his county; and support of Andrew Jackson in the U. S. Senate.


New-York Historical Society
New York, NY
Papers: 1835-1849. 27 items.


The New York Public Library
Manuscripts and Archives Division
New York, NY
Papers: In the Richard John Levy and Sally Waldman Sweet Collection, 1766-1935, 1 linear foot.
A letter from James K. Polk to Colonel Laughlin written on April 17, 1840.


Princeton University Libraries
Princeton, NJ
Papers: In the Andre deCoppet collection, 1566-1942. ca. 3,700 items.


Queens Borough Public Library
Jamaica, NY
Papers: 1 official letter (1846) in the Long Island collection.
Finding aid in repository.


Rosenbach Museum and Library
Philadelphia, PA
Papers: 1845, 1 item.
A letter from James K. Polk to William L. Marcy written on December 26, 1845. In the letter, Polk introduces Henry St. John, an Ohio congressman, to the secretary of war.


Tennessee State Library and Archives
Nashville, TN
Microfilm: 1775-1849, 67 reels.
The original James Knox Polk Papers are in the Library of Congress.

Papers: 1797-1960, approximately 1000 items.
Consists of correspondence (including two letters from James K. Polk and two letters from Cave Johnson), financial documents, legal documents, printed materials, scrapbooks, and other items centered around Bolling Gordon of Hickman County, Tennessee, member of the Tennessee Genera l Assembly, and his descendants of Maury County,

Papers: 1835-1848, 2 items.
Miscellaneous papers of James K. Polk, including a 6 July 1835 letter to Samuel H. Loughlin attacking John Bell for a letter he had written about Polk, feels that pro-bank interests are involved and asks Loughlin not to connect Bell with the presidential election in any editorials.

Papers: 1839-1841, 5 boxes
Gubernatorial papers of James K. Polk.

Papers: 1847-1882, 7 items.
The additions to James K. Polk’s papers consist of: three U.S. land grants, signed by President James K. Polk, dated 1847 and 1848; a photograph of a portrait of Marshall T. Polk of Columbia, Tennessee; two calling cards of Sarah Childress Polk, wife of James K. Polk; and a letter from Mrs. Polk to Sen. H.E. Jackson concerning a proposed pension for her. The three land grants are made out to Elizabeth Bentley of Iowa, Ferrin Baldwin of Alabama, and Evan Shelby Polk of Arkansas.

Papers: In the Robert Dyas Collection of John Coffee Papers, 1770-1917, approximately 6, 000 items.
Correspondents include James K. Polk.

Papers: In the Bolling Gordon Family Papers, 1797-1960, approximately 1,000 items.
Correspondents include James K. Polk.

Papers: In the John P. Heiss Family Papers, 1835-1872, approximately 500 items.
Correspondents include James K. Polk.

Papers: In the David Hubbard Papers, 1807-1871, 240 items.
Correspondents include James K. Polk.


University of California, Berkeley
The Bancroft Library
Berkeley, CA
Papers: 1833, 3 pages.
A letter from James K. Polk to Hon. William B. Lewis written on September 26, 1833. In the letter, Polk writes concerning the speakership of the House of Representatives.

Papers: 1835-1849, 21 pages.
Letters from James K. Polk to Samuel H. Laughlin and William L. Marcy concerning his presidential career, political events in New York State, and offer of the position of Secretary of War to Marcy.

Papers: In the Samuel Ryan Curtis Diaries and Papers, ca. 1846-1860, 3 volumes and 5 folders.
Persons represented include James K. Polk.


University of Chicago Library
Special Collections Research Center
Chicago, IL
Papers: 1835, 1 item.
A letter from James K. Polk to Samuel H. Laughlin written January 8, 1835. In the letter, Polk writes about the political scene in Washington.


University of Iowa Libraries
Special Collections & University Archives
Iowa City, IA
Papers: 1844, 1 item.
A letter from James K. Polk to General Robert Armstrong written on July 26, 1844. In the letter, Polk writes concerning a mass meeting to be held near Nashville; urges that letters be sent to distinguished men.


University of Pennsylvania
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Philadelphia, PA
Papers: 1836, 1 item.
A letter from James K. Polk during his tenure as Speaker of the House to James L. Edwards, Commissioner of Pensions, about the case of Samuel Hillis.

Papers: 1845, 1 item.
Presidential order for safe passage for the Susquehannah of Philadelphia, dated 23 August 1845, signed by U. S. President James K. Polk and Pennsylvania Secretary of State James Buchanan, with presidential seal.


University of Virginia
Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
Charlottesville, VA
Papers: In the Randolph Family of Edgehill Papers, ca. 1822-1888, approximately 60 items.
The papers include a patronage request to James K. Polk.

Papers: In the Washington Family Papers, 1770-1883, 49 items.
The papers include a letter, 26 July 1845, from William Smith, Washington, D.C., to James K. Polk, soliciting a promotion in the U.S. Department of the Treasury for his brother James; and a letter, 17 November 1845, to John Randolph Tucker, Winchester, Va., regarding deeds issued to his father, Henry St. George Tucker.

Papers: In the Floyd L. Whitehead Papers, 1837-1855, 9 items.
Other authors include James K. Polk.


Wellesley College Library
Special Collections
Wellesley, MA
Papers: n.d., 1 page.
A letter from James K. Polk to William S. Morrey. In the letter, Polk asks Morrey, the Secretary of War, to come to his office.