So You Want To Learn About James Buchanan?: A Resource Guide

With the inauguration of 46th President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. on Wednesday, January 20, much attention has been turned to learning the history of previous American presidents. Former President James Buchanan is no exception. Much attention, specifically, has been turned to the fact that Biden joins Buchanan as the second president to have been born in the state of Pennsylvania. (Many think that 43rd President Dwight D. Eisenhower was also a native Pennsylvanian, but “Ike” was born in Denison, Texas. Post-presidency, the Eisenhowers did move and live at their home and working farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.)

At LancasterHistory, we interpret the life and history of former President James Buchanan, and preserve and interpret his beloved home, Wheatland. We’re thrilled to see such excitement in learning about the 15th president as precipitated by the recent inauguration. Below are some great resources, in no particular order, for learning more about “Old Buck.”

Visit Wheatland, In-person or Virtually

Image of President James Buchanan's Wheatland.Situated a few miles outside of Lancaster City and adjacent to the campus of Franklin & Marshall College lies Wheatland, the beloved home of James Buchanan. Buchanan purchased the stately Federal-style home in 1848 and lived there, intermittently, until his death on June 1, 1868. On tour, visitors explore both floors of the 1828 mansion, and learn about the personal and political lives of Buchanan and his “little family,” Harriet Lane, James Buchanan Henry, and Esther Parker.

Today, President James Buchanan’s Wheatland is owned and operated by LancasterHistory. Wheatland’s tangible connection to the U.S. presidency, antebellum and Civil War America, and the American political process make it a powerful tool for teaching history to modern day visitors. President James Buchanan’s Wheatland also carries the accomplishments of being a National Historic Landmark (1965) and is listed on the Pennsylvania State Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places (1979).

How to Visit: Due to the current pandemic, Wheatland is closed for in-person tours. However, visitors are welcome to walk the grounds of the mansion from dawn until dusk. (Social distancing and face masks are encouraged. We also ask all visitors to be respectful of the grounds, buildings, and other pedestrians while on-site.) We also offer virtual tours, conducted live through Zoom, beginning February 4th on Thursdays and Saturdays at 10am and 1pm. (Tickets are available here.)

The Wheatland 360° Virtual Field Trip

In late 2020, LancasterHistory finished an ambitious project to capture the interior of Wheatland using 360° photography . The self-guided tour is now available online for free, and features high-resolution, 360° photographs of interior spaces of the home, high-quality educational videos, and hotspots on historic artifacts. (We’ve also got a scavenger hunt for kids!) Similar to Google Street View, viewers can click about both floors of the mansion and watch videos conducted by reenactors and museum staff about the life of James Buchanan, his politics, and life during the 19th century.

How To Check It Out: Visit our website on your favorite, internet-enabled device to check out the Wheatland 360° Virtual Field Trip. (We recommend viewing on a large screen, such as a computer or larger tablet, to get the best view.)

The Wheatland 360° Virtual Field Trip was generously supported by the Pryor E. & Arlene R. Neuber Charitable Trust.

Books, Books, and More Books: Buchanan Reads

For the readers out there, there are a few books that focus on the history of James Buchanan. Here are some possible reading suggestions for you to add to your Goodreads:

Watch On Demand: Buchanan-focused Lectures & Videos

Rather watch and listen? We’ve got you covered. Enjoy on-demand recordings of past lectures, including the 2019 Presidential Lecture Series, and short, informational videos for all ages in our series “Buchanan Basics.”

2019 Presidential Lecture Series YouTube Playlist

Buchanan Basics YouTube Playlist

Also in 2019, LancasterHistory produced, in association with Aurora Films, a new, short documentary on James Buchanan. The high-quality short film won the Lancaster Red Rose Film Fest “Best Documentary” category in 2019, and is currently employed as LancasterHistory’s orientation film. You can watch a trailer for the film, or purchase Blu-Ray or DVD copies from LancasterHistory’s Museum Store. (For local pick-up options, please call 717-392-4633 before ordering.)

Fun Fact: At the 2019 Red Rose Film Festival, “Best Picture” was taken by another Buchanan-focused film, the hilarious comedy, Raising Buchanan, featuring René Auberjonois as Buchanan.

The James Buchanan Online Presidential Library

Printed illustration of James Buchanan.The James Buchanan Online Presidential Library is a digital repository of more than 3,500 items associated with James BuchananHarriet Lane, and James Buchanan Henry, extended family members, associates, and Wheatland, Buchanan’s home. Now, the general public can search and view the digitized collection to examine the events that transpired during Buchanan’s presidency and gain a better understanding of how the United States responded to one of the most fraught periods in American history.

Digital Tools at Your Disposal

Explore two interactive, digital tools examining the life of James Buchanan, such as our “Path to the Presidency” digital exhibition on Google Arts & Culture, and a timeline of President Buchanan’s life.

For Children or the Child at Heart

Relax and get creative with three coloring book pages of President Buchanan, Wheatland, and President Buchanan’s favorite frog pond. You can also try your hand at our History from Home activity sheet which features connect the dots, “spot the difference,” and other puzzles.





We hope you found the above resources and links helpful and informative as you look to learn more about the U.S. Presidency and James Buchanan! We look forward to the day we can welcome you to visit LancasterHistory in-person and restart our in-person tours of the presidential mansion. In the meanwhile, we encourage you to follow us on social media and subscribe to our newsletter for news and upcoming events.

LancasterHistory on:

Featured Image: Chief-Justice Taney Administering the Oath to Mr. Buchanan. Portraits from Ambrotypes by Brady. As appeared in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, No. 66, Vol. III cover. March 14, 1857.

Please note this blog contains links to other sites. Please be aware that LancasterHistory is not responsible for the content or privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of any other site that collects personally identifiable information. These links do not constitute official endorsement on behalf of LancasterHistory and are for informational purposes only.

From History From The House