James Polk: Handshake Technique

hand shaking
It appears that repetitive strain injuries from hand-shaking is an occupational illness among politicians. Like William McKinley, Polk developed a technique allowing him to "shake hands during the whole day without suffering any bad effects from it" 1a. SEE BELOW
Polk explained his hand-shaking technique in his diary. He explained that a man should 1a:
shake and not be shaken, grip and not be gripped, taking care always to squeeze the hand of his adversary as hard as he squeezed him.... I could generally anticipate when I was to have a strong grip, and that when I observed a strong man approaching I generally took advantage of him by being a little quicker than he was and seizing him by the tips of his fingers, giving him a hearty shake, and thus preventing him from getting a full grip upon me.

Although Polk amused people when he talked about this, he was serious. His diary notes "There is great art in shaking hands." Comment: We should not be surprised. The recent best-selling political novel Primary Colors talks about hand-shaking in some detail 2.

Comments about the hand-shakes of William McKinley (positive) and Woodrow Wilson (negative) have also been published.

Cited Sources
  1. Boller, Paul F. Jr. Presidential Anecdotes. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.
    a  p.101
  2. Anonymous. Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics. New York: Warner Books, 1996.

    Comment: "Anonymous" was later revealed to be Joel Klein.

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