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Valentine's Day, Potus Geek Edition

February 14 is the anniversary of the first time a sitting President had his photograph taken when, in 1849, photographer Matthew Brady took this photograph of President James K. Polk.



February 14th is also Valentine's Day of course. And while there have been many First Couples who had wonderful romances, everything I've read about James and Sarah Polk leads me to believe that they must have had a very strong relationship. Polk's last words were reported to have been "I love you Sarah, for all eternity, I love you." As author Walter Borneman wrote in his 2008 book entitled Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America, "Even if this utterance was embellished, there was nothing in Polk's life to suggest that the sentiment behind it was not true."



While James K. Polk was a Tennessee Legislator, he began courting Miss Sarah Childress. Borneman writes that Polk asked his mentor Andrew Jackson for advice before asking Sarah to marry him. Old Hickory heartily approved. In 1823 the two became engaged and on January 1, 1824, James and Sarah were married at her parents' home near Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The young couple moved to a cottage in Columbia, where Polk could concentrate on his law practice and political career.

The Polks had no children of their own, but raised a nephew, Marshall Tate Polk (1831–1884) as their personal ward. Polk had crude urinary tract surgery when he was 17, which likely left him unable to father children. It wasn't sex that kept the Polks together. They were a power couple with a strong relationship and a strong love. Sarah Polk was described as lively, charming, intelligent, and a good conversationalist. Polk discussed policy matters with her and she was probably his strongest confidant. She helped with his speeches in private, copied his correspondence, and gave him advice. While she enjoyed politics, she also cautioned him against overwork. A devout Presbyterian, she as First Lady banned dancing and hard liquor at official receptions and refused to attend horse races or the theatre. She hosted the first annual Thanksgiving dinner at the White House.

Sarah Polk retired with the former president to Nashville, Tennessee, where she remained after his death in 1849. During the American Civil War, she supported the Confederacy. Sarah Polk lived on in that home for 42 years. She lived through the longest retirement and widowhood of any former US First Lady, and wore black always. She died on August 14, 1891, at age 87. She was buried next to the president at their home in Nashville and was later reinterred with him at the state capitol.



Which First Couple do you think had the strongest relationship together? In the poll below I've included a few suggestions, leaving out those who had affairs (like JFK, FDR, Harding, Clinton), and of course James Buchanan (not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Poll #1681499 First Couples

Which of the following First Couples do you think loved each other the most?

George and Martha Washington
0(0.0%)
John and Abigail Adams
15(51.7%)
James and Dolly Madison
1(3.4%)
Andrew and Rachel Jackson
5(17.2%)
James and Sarah Polk
2(6.9%)
Abraham and Mary Lincoln
0(0.0%)
Ulysses and Julia Grant
0(0.0%)
Rutherford and Lucy Hayes
2(6.9%)
Grover and Frances Cleveland
0(0.0%)
Theodore and Edith Roosevelt
0(0.0%)
Calvin and Grace Coolidge
0(0.0%)
Harry and Bess Truman
0(0.0%)
Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter
0(0.0%)
Ronald and Nancy Reagan
1(3.4%)
George and Barbara Bush
0(0.0%)
George and Laura Bush
0(0.0%)
Barack and Michelle Obama
3(10.3%)
Some other First Couple (please tell us who in a comment)
0(0.0%)

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
direcorrector
Feb. 14th, 2011 11:44 pm (UTC)
LOL not surprised I'm the only one to vote for Hayes. But the way the tour guide portrayed them at his presidential library had all of us in near tears.
kensmind
Feb. 14th, 2011 11:46 pm (UTC)
Hayes must have loved Lemonade Lucy a lot to let her ban booze from the White House.
direcorrector
Feb. 14th, 2011 11:59 pm (UTC)
No doubt! They seemed to be quite devoted to each other.

Ron and Nancy were probably my 2nd choice...especially that his last act, even through the haze of dementia, was to look directly at her.

John and Abigail Adams were one of the better couples too....but I'm guessing it helped that they spent half of their marriage apart!
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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