Nickname: Old Buck

Years in office: 1857–1861

Political party: Democratic

Birthday: April 23, 1791

Official presidential portrait of James Buchanan

by George Peter Alexander Healy, 1858

Campaign Medal, 1856 (Virginia Historical Society)

Stars, a buck, and a cannon adorn the front of this campaign medal from the 1856 election.  When interpreted as a rebus it reads “Buck-cannon” and Breckenridge – informing us on how to really say Buchanan’s name. 

Evidently, the president’s last name isn’t pronounced “Byoo-cannon.”

The back carries the phrases “The Union Must & Shall Be Preserved” and “United We Stand Divided We Fall.” The image of George Washington and Andrew Jackson’s name evoke strong presidents of the past. Today, most historians view James Buchanan as one of our least effective presidents, mainly because he did little to preserve the Union and didn’t address the problems that plagued a divided nation.

The expansion of slavery was the main issue in the election of 1856. The Democrats turned away from the incumbent, Franklin Pierce, in favor of James Buchanan. Buchanan and the Democrats favored popular sovereignty.

In their first presidential election, the newly formed Republican party stood firmly against the expansion of slavery. And former president Millard Fillmore ignored the issue as the American, or Know-Nothing, candidate.  Buchanan would win the election, setting course for a Civil War.


Mercersburg, PA

James Buchanan Statue

 City of Presidents, Rapid City, SD


Wheatland, Lancaster, PA


Lancaster, PA


Davis, Kenneth C., and Pedro Martin. Don’t Know Much about the Presidents. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2014.

DeGregorio, William A., and Aaron Jaffe. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books, Inc., 2017.

Kane, Joseph Nathan, and Janet Podell. Facts about the Presidents: A Compilation of Biographical and Historical Information. New York: H.W. Wilson, 2009.


Encyclopedia Britannica, britannica.com

Library of Congress, loc.gov

Miller Center, University of Virginia, millercenter.org/the-presidency

The White House, whitehouse.gov

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