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Stacy Conradt

James K. Polk's Remains May Be Moving to a Fourth Grave

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Stacy Conradt

James K. Polk died just three months after leaving office in 1849, having likely contracted cholera on a trip to New Orleans. One of the more successful one-term presidents—he expanded the territory of the nation by a third, among other achievements—Polk died at his home in Nashville, Tennessee, and was temporarily buried outside of town, in keeping with the law for cholera victims.

A year later, his remains were disinterred (the concerns over cholera contamination presumably having passed) and moved to their second location, a William Strickland-designed tomb located in a prominent spot at his former home, Polk Place—the final resting place he had requested in his will. When Sarah Polk died more than 40 years later, she joined her husband in the tomb. But they did not rest in peace.

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In his will, Polk had specified that the house pass into state ownership and that a “worthy” blood relative be allowed to live there. But the couple had no children, and after Sarah died, scores of Polk's relatives came forward to challenge the will—they wanted to sell the land and divvy up the profits. They got their way, and the house was sold to out-of-town developers, who opted to demolish the home. The Polks' remains were disinterred in 1893 and reburied on the grounds of the state Capitol in Nashville.

The Polks have resided at the Capitol for well over a century now, in a quiet spot that State Senator Joey Hensley says is overlooked. That’s why he has introduced a bill that would move the Polks—again—to the President James K. Polk Home and Museum in Columbia, Tennessee. The home was built in 1816 by Polk’s father; the former president lived there for just five years as a young man.

Detractors say it’s a cheap, disrespectful ploy to increase tourism to Columbia, which is currently most famous as “the mule capital of the world.” Others, including the curator of the museum, say it’s simply a better way to honor James and Sarah Polk than the afterthought at the Tennessee Statehouse. The state Senate will debate the bill tonight, although the move will also require the approval of the state’s House of Representatives, governor, the Tennessee Historical Commission, and a local judge. No word on whether Polk is spinning in his grave at the thought of being moved yet again.

[h/t The New York Times]

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Courtesy of Sotheby's
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History
Found: A Rare Map of Australia, Created During the 17th Century
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Courtesy of Sotheby's

More than 40 years before Captain James Cook landed on Australia’s eastern coast in 1770, renowned Dutch cartographer Joan Blaeu created an early map of the Land Down Under. Using geographical information gleaned from Dutch navigator Abel Tasman in the 1640s, it was the first map to include the island state of Tasmania and name New Zealand, and the only one to call Australia “Nova Hollandia.”

Very few copies—if any—of the 1659 map, titled Archipelagus Orientalis (Eastern Archipelago), were thought to have survived. But in 2010, a printing was discovered in a Swedish attic. After being restored, the artifact is newly on display at the National Library of Australia, in the capital city of Canberra, according to news.com.au.

The seller’s identity has been kept under wraps, but it’s thought that the map belonged to an antiquarian bookseller who closed his or her business in the 1950s. For decades, the map sat amidst other papers and books until it was unearthed in 2010 and put up for auction.

The National Library acquired the 17th century wall map in 2013 for approximately $460,000. After a lengthy restoration process, it recently went on display in its Treasures Gallery, where it will hang until mid-2018.

As for other surviving copies of the map: a second version was discovered in a private Italian home and announced in May 2017, according to Australian Geographic. It ended up selling for more than $320,000.

[h/t news.com.au]

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geography
What's the Difference Between a Lake and a Pond?
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iStock

Around 71 percent of the Earth's surface is covered in water, which is why geographers have coined so many names to describe the forms it takes. But what’s the real difference between, say, a lake and a pond, a spring and an oasis, or a creek and an arroyo?

Vox gets granular with geography in the video below, explaining the subtle distinctions between everything from a bay (a part of an ocean, surrounded by water on three sides) to a barachois (a coastal lagoon, separated from the ocean by a sand bar). The five-minute explainer also provides maps and real-life examples, and describes how certain bodies of water got their names. (For example, the word geyser stems from geysa, meaning "to gush.")

Guess what? A geyser is also a type of spring. Learn more water-based trivia—and impress your nature-loving friends the next time you go camping—by watching the video below.

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