They Might Be Giants have been representing alternative rock’s brainier and slightly quirky side for more than 30 years now. Perhaps their most recognizable song is “Boss of Me,” the theme to the TV show “Malcolm in the Middle,” but today’s Mail Music Monday selection is their song “James K. Polk.”
The band explains the song as a history lesson, and an attempt to get people to remember dry historical facts about mid-19th Century American politics. Running just over three minutes, the song touches on many national milestones reached under the first term of Polk’s presidency, which Polk considered so successful he declined to seek a second. One accomplishment the band left out of the song, however, was Polk overseeing the USPS’s first implementation of postage stamps in 1847.
Postage Stamps had been introduced in Great Britain just seven years earlier. Polk played a massive role in making the United States span the North American continent, and while his foreign policy’s role in the current shape of our map is often acknowledged, it would be a mistake to overlook the role domestic policy played. Modernizing the nation’s mail provided a part of a communications infrastructure that was essential to settling and governing the vast new territory added to our country.