James Buchanan Resource Center Banner Image

About the Resource Center

Introduction | Materials | Viewing | Project Details | Conditions of Use


The James Buchanan Resource Center makes available, for all interested students and researchers, a collection of materials regarding this controversial nineteenth century politician and statesman. Prior to becoming the 15th President of the United States, James Buchanan had demonstrated his political skill and personal commitment through five decades of public service. Despite those many years of preparation, however, Buchanan is generally considered to have been hugely unsuccessful in his term as president. Even after the passage of nearly 150 years, his administration remains much maligned and criticized. A personality whose life, whose ideas, and whose actions generate such a strong response is worthy of close study, and therefore these resources on James Buchanan have been gathered and made accessible.


James Buchanan graduated from Dickinson College in 1809, the only graduate of the college to later become President of the United States. Because of Buchanan's prominence, the college has long sought to acquire interesting and unique research materials regarding his life and career. More than 400 original letters of James Buchanan, spanning his entire career, have been collected over the past half a century, along with numerous published works, drawings and engravings, and pieces of memorabilia. Through this website, Dickinson College seeks to share a selection of these materials with the educational and research communities at large. Personal letters and political cartoons are presented here, along with several published biographies and the edited and collected writings of Buchanan, printed in 12 volumes between 1908 and 1912. These resources comprise nearly 9000 pages of text. The materials are all fully searchable, allowing greater access for research purposes, and the original handwritten letters have all been transcribed for ease of reading.

Viewing Tools

The James Buchanan Resource Center utilizes CONTENTdm digital collection management software to organize and present its materials online. CONTENTdm allows for the virtual recreation of hierarchical materials online, making it possible to read through a book or a series of letters on screen as you would with the physical copy in hand. Another key feature of CONTENTdm's Document Viewer is its ability to display page images and full-text transcripts side by side; this vastly simplifies the process of reading 19th-century penmanship while still allowing the reader to appreciate the style and format of the original writing. CONTENTdm has been optimized for use in Internet Explorer, and not all of its features are compatible with other browsers. For more information on CONTENTdm and its application in the James Buchanan Resource Center, please see our help page.

Project Details


The James Buchanan Resource Center was supported in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as administered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in association with Dickinson College and the Dickinson Electronic Initiative in the Liberal Arts (deila).

Project Dates:

Work on this project began on May 1, 2004; the project website was formally launched on October 1, 2004.


Work on the James Buchanan Resource Center can be divided into various stages, including the selection of materials for digitization, pre-processing of materials and testing for quality and consistency, final processing of materials, website development, and content development. For more detailed information on how we proceeded with this project, please visit our separate page on creating the resource center.


James Gerencser
Project Director
College Archivist & Special Collections Librarian

  Malinda Triller
Project Coordinator
Archives Technician
Robert K. Reeves
Project Technician & Webmaster
  Patrick Baker
Project Assistant

Several undergraduate students also provided valuable assistance toward this project. Their efforts in the preparation of materials included transcribing letters, editing OCR'd text, and hand-keying text. Our special thanks go to Brian Adams, LeAnn Fawver, and Alyssa Them. Finally, we thank John Osborne, Ph.D., for his invaluable input on matters ranging from design and presentation to historical content.

Conditions of Use

Dickinson College retains all rights to the digital images and original content presented on this website.

The James Buchanan Resource Center website is intended for educational and research purposes only. These materials may be used freely for teaching and academic research and may be linked from other websites; use of the images, transcriptions, and original content contained on this website should be properly credited to the source.

Any and all commercial use of the materials on the James Buchanan Resource Center website is strictly prohibited without written permission from Dickinson College. Reproductions of materials and licensing for use are available, upon request, for a fee. If you would like to use the materials presented here for publication or presentation, please contact the Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections.